Monday, June 09, 2014

Prankvertising Is The Worst Thing To Happen To Advertising Since The Starburst.


Today’s world has deemed them so vital, that it’s turned them into one word. Say the word in a marketing meeting, and ears prick up, eyes sparkle, and sometimes drool comes out of mouths.

That’s because a video ad’s pageviews instantly turn advertising into science, which it absolutely most certainly is not. But marketing hacks love definitive numbers, "verifiable" results, and pretty, multicolored graphs. And ad agency account hacks love providing them with all three. It justifies both of their jobs.

(The pathetic starburst)

Nevertheless, the best way for ad agencies to get their clients big pageviews is to make a video ad designed to go “viral.” Not designed to sell a product benefit, no. Just to get “eyeballs".

Enter Shockvertising, aka Prankvertising, aka Stuntvertising, aka “experiential” marketing, aka “Jackass”vertising (my term). It’s what more and more agencies are relying on to appease clients in lieu of creating ads that actual give people a reason to buy their fucking product.

Dove: Patches

Dove’s current branding position is “real beauty” (which isn’t real). They’ve established it by shoving women’s insecurities in their faces, as with their much-lauded thee-minute ad Beauty Sketches.” Dove hired a forensics artist to draw two sketches: what women thought they looked like, and what strangers thought they looked like. It just won top honors at last week’s Effie (short for “effective”) Awards. That means the ad directly led to a substantial increase in sales, supposedly $24 million. But that number is based solely on Dove's own research, so caveat emptor.

This non-product. no-benefit Dove campaign is posing as empowering to women when it actually passive aggressively belittles them. And that makes it worse than traditional “beauty” advertising.

Their latest gotcha! ad (above) was released in April, and has racked up over 20 million YouTube views. Unilever’s (Dove’s parent) chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed has probably been rubbing them out as fast as he can reload as he monitors the page. Weed’s background, fyi, is as a mechanical engineer, so he’s probably one of those who wrongly believes advertising is a science.

This time Ogilvy Brazil got psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke from the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute (which specializes in body image issues) to dupe insecure women by prescribing them the RB-X patch, which she told them was supposed to “enhance their image of their own beauty.” (What conscious being would actually believe that?) The women wore it for a couple of weeks and reported back. Apparently, most of them said they felt better about themselves.

At that point, Kearney-Cooke revealed to the women that they had been wearing a placebo. Amazingly (and very suspiciously), none of them were upset. One woman even cries, she’s so happy. You can bet that some less-than-positive responses were left out of the final cut.

This is what Steve Miles, global senior vice president of Dove, said about their latest prankvertising:

"I just want each film to work and engage women," Miles, female expert, said. "For me, it's not just the crude numbers game per se. It's are we getting the right sort of response?"

First off, they’re not films, they’re ads. And Miles? Get your presumptuous ass out of the psychiatric field. You’re not in the business of mentally repairing women. You’re just preying on their neuroses to sell your “beauty” products. And who knows what psychological damage you’re causing?

And don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Miles. It is only about the crude numbers.

"In terms of market share, the ultimate proof of whether consumers are coming with us, on all of the brand equity measures I look at, we're on an ascending trend with Dove in almost every region of the world,” the buzzwordy bullshitter said.

Wall’s Ice Cream: Goodbye Serious

Also from last April, Wall’s (another Unilever brand) apparently paid some Plumas County, California Sheriff's deputies to fake-pull over some drivers and, instead or ticketing or arresting them, the cops gave them ice cream cones.


Hey, why not? Everybody adores cops nowadays. Luckily, they didn’t pull over an anti-government militiaman with a Sig-Sauer in his crotch and a lack of medication in his veins, or an agoraphobic with a weak heart.

Not to worry. This was just another bullshit controlled fake stunt with amateur actors.

Pepsi Max “Unbelievable Bus Shelter”

Erected at a busy London bus stop in March, this digital shock ad has over six million views (fist-bump-explosions all-around). I wonder if they blocked senior citizens from entering the bus stop to avoid possible deaths? I can just picture the Max marketing team meeting scenario: giddy schmucks shouting stuff like “LOOK AT THE COMSUMERS ENGAGING WITH OUR BRAND!” (and) “THEY’RE LAUGHING, THEY’RE SMILING! THEY REALLY LIKE US!”

Know this: if surveyed, a vast majority of the people who remembered this stunt would not remember the brand. I guarantee it.

Antiseptica “Handvertising”

To Germany, and last year’s Hamburg Marathon. Hand sanitizer brand Antiseptica doesn’t have a big marketing budget. So, via their German agency Grabarz & Partners, they evilly tried to put ads on people’s hands with high-five-vertising. First off: fuck you, fucking assholes. Secondly, how many of the imprints do you think were actually this readable?

Oh, you provided free product for people to wash their hands? How nice of you. What if your product sucks, and your stunt runner transferred herpes to me from some deviant who likes to masturbate while watching road races? Why did no one, after noticing what the asshole stunt runner did, run after him and tackle him?

Yovis-Viaggio (anti-diarrhea probiotic) “The Great Escape”

This is the other insidious part of prankvertising: almost all of the pranks are completely fake, while falsely portraying themselves as spontaneous—like with this “Elevator Murder Experiment” promoting the movie Dead Man Down. NYC ad agency Thinkmodo (tagline: “BE CREATIVE. BE ENGAGING. GO VIRAL.”) claims it used unaware strangers exhibiting real reactions. All you have to do is think of the possible lawsuits involved to realize they are lying through their scum-sucking teeth.

The above stunt was performed at the City of Milan Airport, last November, by Publicis Italy. Like with the elevator prank, these are all actors or tipped-off volunteers, because if they weren’t, the dupes would be freaking the fuck out. And people freaking the fuck out at Italy’s busiest international airport is not an option the authorities would allow. That’s also why this ambush ad stunt by Nivea at a German airport last year was likewise 100% fake, despite the bullshit backup info provided by the agency.

Toys “R” Us “Busload of Kids”

Lastly, there was this prank video and TV spot from last holiday season. Toys “R” Us put a bunch of kids on a bus ostensibly heading to a forest field trip, but instead took them to one of their stores and gave them a free toy. Haha, fuck learning, fuck the environment. Predictably, educators were nonplussed.

This is what company senior vice president of marketing Peter Reiner had to say about the stunt:

"It's very real. Our campaign theme is around 'wish.' Last year, it was more rational…talking about reasons for a consumer to come to us. This year, it's a much better balance between the rational and the emotional, while bringing them both together."

This is what it sounds like when marketing people have no fucking clue what the words coming out their mouth mean, which is pretty much always.

Even the shock ads that do sell a product benefit, like this fake end-of-the-word interview prank by LG, are harmful to the industry because they inspire agencies to get even more stupid. (Again, the interviewees in this video are obviously actors.)

When will this hot trend end? Smart ad agencies are already mercilessly mocking it. Maybe somebody has to have a heart attack? Or maybe, somebody will stab “Chucky” to death? Or maybe some dupe will win hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit?

Or maybe, CEOs and CMOs will eventually figure out that a short-term bump in social media mentions caused by a “provocative” prank ad is not doing one good goddamn thing for their brand.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey this is great but you used "nonplussed" wrong.

I doubt that, "educators were 'faced with difficulty about what to say, think, or do'" in this situation, especially since some of them had plenty to say at the link.

How about, "Predictably, educators were tiresome pedants about the campaign" instead?

Anyhow, keep up the good work!

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pepsi Max “Unbelievable Bus Shelter” stunt was pretty cool. Will have to disagree with you on that one. It's nowhere near as stupid as Dove's stupid patches and the cops fake pulling over people.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, thank you. Had to be said! Next can we tackle Coke and their need to solve world problem that don't exist?

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to read real rants again!

6:43 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Anonymous 10:26 AM:
You passive aggressively misspelled "Fuck you copyranter, you illiterate douchebag," you gutless fucking coward.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is brilliant and long overdue.

Love the blog...but tell us; how you do this and manage to stay employed?


Closeted Ranter

8:58 AM  

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