Behold a masterpiece of outdoor advertising – imagery so iconic, so unmistakeable that the name of the program need not even be mentioned. The current outdoor campaign for AMC’s “Mad Men” is nothing short of inspiring. Here’s an example of the ad on a supergraphic in Los Angeles, California:
For its Season 5 promo billboards, Mad Men lived up to its subject matter
It’s almost poetic – the show centers around Don Draper, a man who is an influential advertising executive known for creative and provocative campaigns. This puts a great deal of pressure on the real-life advertisers for AMC to come up with images and copy that would meet the discerning eye of the fictional Draper. And I think they’ve done it.
The use of the instantly recognizable “falling man” image evokes among fans of the show the feeling that something dreadful might happen this season. When we last left Don Draper and the staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, much was left up in the air, and it would appear that not everything gets a happy landing. Whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter at this point – what matters is that the show’s creators have brilliantly used this minimalistic ad to engage the imaginations of their audience. Once that happens, it’s almost a sure thing that they’ll watch the show.
Amazingly, the New York Times reported that these ads were created in-house, which seems to support the “life imitates art” argument. Perhaps the show’s creators themselves are becoming more like Don Draper.
What Doesn’t Work:
I probably didn’t need to include this section of the post. If Mad Men weren’t such a powerful prestige brand, one would think they would give the title of the show or the network logo. However, as we’ve blogged about before, informational ads really only reach new consumers (viewers, in this case). On the other hand, an ad that is designed to create a prestige effect will have a significant impact on both new and existing viewers alike (Ackerberg, 1999). Even if they’ve never watched Mad Men, most people upon seeing this ad will recognize the imagery or the font style and correctly attribute it to the show. Anyone who cannot recognize it will likely be inspired to search online or ask someone about it, creating a higher level of engagement. Long story short – this ad works.
The takeaway is simple and timeless: exploit the imagination of your target market.
Advertisers should consider the consumer’s imagination as an intensely competitive media market where your brand needs to establish itself. You don’t want to disappear the moment they look away from your ad.
Anytime an advertisement for your brand can stimulate the imagination of a consumer, you’ve done better that the vast majority of marketing throughout history. Design your ads to cause viewers to imagine what might happen on a show, how refreshing a drink might taste, how good a dress might look on them, etc. Of course, it’s easier said than done. The reason it’s so valuable it that when the consumer pictures these things in his or her mind, they’ve made a powerful connection with your brand. And when it comes time to make their purchase, it’s as if the idea came from within.
Photos courtesy of http://dailybillboard.blogspot.com
Today, the 20th Century Fox release “This Means War” hits theaters nationwide. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that the plot is essentially a love triangle rendition of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” but if all you have to go on is this billboard, you may be understandably more confused.
The concept itself is sound: highlight the rivalry between the two men, and allude to the fact that the object of their desire is oblivious to their true nature. The copy is simple and reinforces the film’s title with the play on words, “Make War, Not Love.” Visually, the use of contrast makes the copy and the images stand out, with the film’s star and title drawing the eye.
What Doesn’t Work:
The design seems solid in concept, but the execution of this ad leaves much to be desired. The fact is that most viewers will look at this billboard for 1 or 2 seconds, and many will totally miss the handguns that blend into the dark suits. But the greatest failure of this ad has to do with the plane on which the characters are positioned.
At a glance, this billboard appears to say, ‘Go see this film or these two guys will murder Reese Witherspoon.’
For the design’s basic concept to work, her character must be standing either clearly in front of or clearly behind the two male characters. Otherwise, the result can be a billboard that tells the wrong story, like this ad for “This Means War.” 20th Century Fox can do better.
The image below shows the original ad next to a version we edited based on the above recommendations. You’ll notice immediately that Reese’s character is standing in front of the other two characters. Thanks to this simple change, the ad now conveys the right story – that Reese is not a hostage, but may be involved with two handsome but secretly dangerous men. We also lightened their suits to make the pistols stand out more.
The Original Billboard next to Our Revised Version
When it comes to your brand, whether it’s a film or your personal Facebook profile, don’t just go half-way with your messaging. The information you put out should quickly and clearly convey the intended message, and at the very least shouldn’t leave viewers confused. The original billboard works in concept, but as with so many other elements of marketing, how well your concept is executed is the difference between success and failure.
Photos courtesy of http://dailybillboard.blogspot.com
LOS ANGELES, CA - On Friday, September 2, 2011, the California legislature approved a bill to further restrict “mobile billboards” within the City of Los Angeles. This ban applies only to vehicles onto which advertising is externally mounted or hitched, significantly limiting the mobile out-of-home (OOH) options available to advertisers.
Mobile billboard trailers have been hitched to almost everything, but a new law eliminates loopholes (image copyright kcet.org)
One form of mobile OOH not affected by this ban is car wraps - vinyl adhesive displays applied to the windows and body of a vehicle. The bill, AB 1298, provides an exclusion for advertising signs that “…do not extend beyond the overall length, width, or height of the vehicle,” making car wraps exempt from the ban. Demand for car wrap companies and services such as Rush Hour Outdoor, who wrap commuter vehicles with their clients’ ads, has risen steadily since the passage of a law that eliminated unhitched trailer advertisements in the city last year.
Car wrap advertisements, like this one from Rush Hour Outdoor, will not be affected by the ban.
Since taking effect in January, that law has led to the removal of hundreds of mobile billboards from the community. Hundreds more mobile advertising vehicles will be eliminated following enactment of AB 1298, which provides a more broad definition of what constitutes a “mobile billboard.” When enacted, the bill will allow municipalities to cite and impound offending vehicles, effectively scaring off most advertisers wary of a legal nightmare. After passing easily in both the Senate and the Assembly, the bill is now on the Governor’s desk, to be acted on by October 9, 2011.
With the proposed moratorium on digital billboards, an existing moratorium on supergraphics, and these new restrictions on “mobile billboards,” advertisers face a real challenge: how to effectively reach consumers while in their vehicles. Arbitron, an international media and marketing research firm, found in their 2009 National In-Car Study that 68% of drivers make buying decisions while in the car. That astounding figure illustrates the high value advertisers place on commuters, and helps explain why Rush Hour Outdoor and other OOH service providers will be relied upon even more by advertisers who wish to continue to utilize mobile OOH in Southern California after this bill is enacted into law.
A full article on the passage of the bill can be found here.
Rush Hour Outdoor has long been a huge fan (and customer) of Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system. Now, in their “customer spotlight” series, Grasshopper is throwing some kudos our way as well. Please click the image below to see the full article:
May 26, 2011 LOS ANGELES – Did you know that 68% of commuters make buying decisions while in the car? Or how about this, ¾ of drivers shop on their way home from work? Its statistics like these that make it hard to ignore the fact that traditional in-home advertising is losing the effectiveness and reach that it once had. With the amount of time people spend in their car increasing, Jeff Blake saw an opportunity and created Rush Hour Outdoor.
Rush Hour Outdoor lets commuters advertise for you by placing your ads on the personal vehicles of people who live, work, or play in your target markets. The medium of commuter advertising has been around since the 60s, but earlier iterations of the idea were never executed to the level that Jeff and his team envision.
With the explosion of mobile technology, especially among young professionals, advertisers can use commuter advertising campaigns to not only place their messages in front of targeted populations, but also engage them on a more interactive level through social media and SMS (text messaging). You have to check out their statistics on the success of this type of non-traditional advertising.
How Rush Hour Outdoor Got Started
Jeff Blake didn’t exactly follow a linear path to entrepreneurship. After receiving his M.B.A. in 2007, he was offered a job in healthcare PR, and moved from Maryland to Los Angeles, California. Soon, Jeff began to see the thousands of vehicles in gridlock every day as unused advertising space, and decided to launch his company in 2008. He was working full time at his PR job and working nights on his business, like most entrepreneurs, but he knew that if he didn’t establish his company as the leader in this market segment, someone else would.
With most of his classmates and colleagues on the East Coast, Jeff had to build his network from scratch. Starting a business can be challenging enough, so Jeff took to networking 3-4 nights a week to build up his network of people with experience bootstrapping their business and people who he could bounce ideas off of. According to Jeff, “Networking will be more important to you and your business than your M.B.A.”
Why Commuter Advertising?
Because of the explosion of mobile technology and the fact that most people have smart phones now a days, Jeff Blake’s company is able to offer their advertisers greater results and tracking on their campaign’s than other traditional forms of outdoor advertising. Ever had to defend the ROI of a program or advertising campaign you ran? Then you understand why this is so important to Rush Hour Outdoor’s clients.
You can get detailed profiles on your commuter vehicles and customize your campaign for maximum effectiveness based on your results. Smart phones are an important part of this because they give advertisers a greater understanding of their campaign’s success with proof of performance metrics like on demand pictures, GPS tracking on the vehicles and odometer readings. Jeff Blake has been able to scale his business by using proprietary processes to leverage mobile technology, which facilitates quality control and proof of performance measurement on their commuter advertising fleets. You can find their advertising anywhere from Los Angeles, to Seattle, to Las Vegas, with plans for continued expansion in the near future.
With a database of over 10,000 commuter vehicles, and access to the demographics and lifestyles of each driver, Rush Hour Outdoor makes it easy for you to get the most out of your advertising campaigns.
Keep your eyes peeled for the expansion of Rush Hour Outdoor. They are currently in talks and looking for investors to further increase the reach of their advertising. Want to connect? Email Jeff or find them on Twitter.
Yesterday, AT&T announced it will acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion with a 64 percent cash, 36 percent equity transaction. Analysts suggest that the merger will be beneficial for current AT&T and T-Mobile customers alike, but I’m of course more concerned with the fate of the characters in T-Mobile’s nearly ever-present TV commercials like this one:
AT&T now has a choice to make. Its options include scrapping the campaign altogether, or perhaps awkwardly integrating the nameless T-Mobile girl into their own “Rethink Possible” advertising campaign, which has no central character.
The problem with AT&T keeping any part of the T-Mobile commercial is that these two campaigns have antithetical messages. One posits that AT&T has the most coverage and the fastest wireless network for mobile devices, while the other calls out AT&T as an old, sluggish network that prevents your mobile devices from performing at their highest level.
Additionally, the copy of the T-Mobile campaign makes it difficult to integrate the two campaigns. The T-Mobile girl introduces herself as the device, not the network. She is the MyTouch 4G, while the young attractive guy on the other side of the screen is the iPhone 4. The T-Mobile network is not personified, but the AT&T network is played by a balding, middle-aged man casted to be reminiscent of the incompetent Ted from Scrubs. AT&T can’t very well keep that character, since he is designed specifically to make them look bad. And there is no logical point to having the two “device” characters get together, since the merger doesn’t change the relationship between devices on what is now known as T-Mobile and those on the AT&T network.
It seems to me that should this merger be approved, AT&T will have no choice but to scrap the T-Mobile campaign and pretend that it never existed. To even sunset the MyTouch girl with a “now together for the first time” ad would only give credibility to the original concept of juxtaposition. It’s almost a shame that these ads will be forever silenced because while I don’t think their message is based in fact (in the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I am an iPhone user and AT&T customer), they were stylistically elegant and simple enough to be memorable.
Obviously, these commercials work for the same reason that Apple’s “I’m a Mac” commercials work – the anthropomorphism of products (and in this case services). Doing so is a simple and effective way to not only exaggerate the differences between competing products, but also to show viewers what kind of person they are if they buy one or the other. What T-Mobile has been doing is called positioning – in one stroke, they’ve not only positioned their brand as the cool, pretty girl with the fast connection, but they’ve also repositioned AT&T as the old network with cool devices, but slower and limited service. The message consumers receive is that if you want to have it all, like the T-Mobile girl, don’t go with AT&T.
This isn’t the first time that a merger has resulted in a competitor absorbing its rival, but it may be the first time the new parent company has been so relentlessly disparaged by its newly-purchased competitor. It seems relatively certain at this point that we have probably seen about all there is to see of these ads, and I will be surprised if I see any during this regulatory approval period. There is no sense in T-Mobile continuing to promote the position that AT&T is a lower value for consumers if the argument for why the merger should go forward is that it adds value for consumers. Keep your eyes open for these ads and let me know if I’m mistaken about that part.
These T-Mobile commercials are effective, yet uninspired ads that we’ve already seen over and over with the “I’m a Mac” campaign. By using celebrities, the Apple commercials actually showed better execution on the same idea, in addition to being probably the first company to utilize this technique. T-Mobile did well with this series of spots, or at least well enough to perhaps be acquired by AT&T to become the nation’s largest wireless service provider. Maybe that was the goal all along. Either way, say goodbye to these ads – whether or not the merger goes through, I think the T-Mobile girl can hang up her stilettos.
Jeff Blake, founder and CEO of Rush Hour Outdoor, was honored to be one of three young entrepreneurs invited to speak to MBA students in the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Jeff, along with ElephantDrive CEO Michael Fisher and Mixergy founder Andrew Warner, sat on a panel for the Anderson School’s annual Entrepreneurship week. Each entrepreneur spoke about the formation of their business, some of theirchallenges and successes, and answered questions from an audience of 200 future entrepreneurs. Continue reading →
Rush Hour Outdoor, the Los Angeles-based advertising service that places ads on commuter vehicles, has been selected as a finalist in the 2010 Entrepreneurial Spirit Grant from the notable smallbusiness website, ideacafe.com.Idea Cafe, which has been featured in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, is giving entrepreneurs the chance to win a cash grant and gain media exposure for their business. Idea Cafe’s Entrepreneurial Spirit 2010 Grant will present a cash award to the small business with the most original approach. Continue reading →
October 16, 2010 LOS ANGELES – Altavert’s CEO Jeff Blake teamed up with Media Leaders Founder Josh Ochs to present the first Grassroots Social Media Marketing Summit for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. This half-day session kicked off with Jeff’s presentation on the various trends and best practices small businesses need to take into consideration when planning to purchase any kind of Out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Continue reading →