Friday, February 18, 2005

Don't Take My Money, Please

As a former ad man (I wrote radio commercials for many years) I pay attention to commercials on a different level than most, sizing them up for how well they accomplish their missions. And I have noticed a strange thing in at least two commercial campaigns: the commercials are telling you not to use the product. I don't think the creators mean them to do that, but that's what they do.

The first is a credit notification commercial which has a man being harassed in his kitchen, car, and bedroom by a notifier telling the man that his credit rating is fine and his identity hasn't been stolen. At one point the service wakes him from a sound sleep to tell him this information. This commercial, while funny, delivers the message "Our product will annoy you." Now while some of us will intentionally annoy ourselves for potential benefit, it usually isn't in the arena of credit watching.

The second one is on both radio and television. It is the travel site with the lawn gnome, where they debunk travel myths. The ads announce what they consider is a myth about booking travel and then give the benefits of their service. However, they immediately follow it announcing a myth such as "it's bad to touch jellyfish" followed by the gnome getting stung by the jellyfish. It, too, is funny, but says "We're lying" or at least "you can't trust us."

You can be funny in an ad without destroying the message you want to send. The travel site's ads could be altered slightly to "Truth or Fiction?" giving the same travel point saying that the myth is fiction, then doing the jellyfish bit with the gnome getting stung, saying that was true. The fix on the credit commercial could be something like a guy not being able to do anything because he's worried that his identity has been stolen. Then, after he gets the credit service, he's calm and serene.

At any rate, whenever delivering a public message designed to persuade, you must take a look at what you're saying under the surface, or else, like the jellyfish, it could come back to sting you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

He's Just a Bill. Yes, He's Only a Bill

First, congratulations to Bill Belichick on winning his third Superbowl. His team, while as boring as he was during his tenure with the Browns, knows how to win and does just that.

That said, I was surprised to find Cris Collinsworth even mentioning that Bill coached in Cleveland and what a disaster that was. But he did, saying that people in Cleveland must be scratching their heads at the success he's having now.

Well, this expatriate (no pun intended) isn't scratching his head about Bill's success now. What pretty much all of greater Cleveland was scratching their head about was his coaching in Cleveland. With hindsight a plenty, these days most Clevelanders will say they wanted Bill Cowher, but at the time sentiment was split between Cowher and Belichick as choices for head coach, because Bill B. was young and was thought to be something of a defensive genius. And yet his some of his football moves with Cleveland just didn't make sense.

History has proven him more right than wrong about Bernie Kosar's diminishing skills (which was more a PR disaster than a football disaster.) But "Metcalf up the middle" became literally a running joke in Cleveland, mocking Belichick's penchant for trying to run the slight Eric Metcalf up the gut, especially when the more durable Leroy Hoard was available for such duty. But looking back at those times, one must conclude that Belichick was trying to win with, let's face it, a less than stellar football cast.

The teams of Art "The Great Satan" Modell while in Cleveland drafted horrendously. (It must be something in Lake Erie, because Carmen Policy didn't do any better.) The unsung hero in Boston is the Patriots' general manager (so unsung, in fact, that I have forgotten his name.) But even there, Bill had a hand. In much of a similar replay to Cleveland, Bill benched the popular Drew Bledsoe for the boring, workmanlike Tom Brady, who, to paraphrase Al Davis, just wins, baby.

So Belichick has vindication (if he wants it,) and yet another Superbowl. It's nice to see that somebody got the Belichick we'd hoped we'd get all along. And, yes, his teams are still boring. But I'll take boring and winning every day and especially twice on Sunday.