27 November 2008

Exorcise Your Memory: Ghosts of Xmas Past? Cool. Ads of Xmas Past? Not So Much.

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Guy Who Really Does Like Ads…

You're so transparent...As this economy continues to just lie there, unmoving and unappetizing as cold turkey giblets, some businesses are trying to save money by re-airing their old holiday commercials. After all, those ads cost a lot to produce, so why not wring the last morsel of value from them?

Well, fellow marketers, here’s my Xmas wish: let your ghosts R.I.P. already. As an environmentalist, I fully endorse recycling — but not of TV commercials.

You know the commercial with the guy stealing a Heineken from the 6-pack he’s gift wrapping? It was only mildly amusing the first time; it’s dead tired a year later. True, viewing that commercial repeatedly is still far better than enduring one second of Toyota’s new “Saved By Zero” commercial — but that’s not saying much, since the Toyota ad is now being used to extract confessions in Guantanamo.

Note: I’m not alone in my antipathy toward Toyota’s atrocity in the name of advertising — there are 9000 Facebook members who belong to a group called “Stop Playing Toyota’s Saved By Zero Commercial”. And on YouTube, there’s this brilliant parody:

While showing a bad ad is torturous, re-airing ads during the same program is particularly cruel and unusual. I watch a lot of college football, and the only thing more annoying than hearing the Oklahoma fight song after every play — someone get that band another tune already! — is seeing the same Heineken ad during every break. With more and more consumers using TiVo and DVR’s to skip commercials, why provide them with justification?

Actually, I take that back: the Oklahoma fight song is more annoying. At least when the Heineken ad comes on, I can go check my email, take a bio break, or pop open a Sam Adams. (Ha! Take that, Heine.) In other words, marketers, you may think you’re saving money, but you’re just making an impression on a lot of vacant sofas.

Now, conventional wisdom states that a marketing message must be heard at least three times before it registers on consumers. Let’s assume that’s true. What conventional wisdom fails to mention is that, for the consumers to even pay attention, the message should be expressed in three different ads and, ideally, three different media (print, online, etc.).

So, my brethren, don’t be a marketing Scrooge this holiday season. Your old commercials aren’t classics like “It’s A Wonderful Life” that consumers look forward to every year. If your ads cost that much to make, put ’em out to stud on YouTube, where they can tantalize voluntary viewers at no cost forever — or until Google realizes that YouTube has become a free dumping ground for old ads.

As heart-warming as your holiday commercials of yesteryear might be, the only leftovers that consumers want come out of the fridge.

Update 12/7/8: Four days after I wrote this article, Advertising Age published a piece on the same topic and featuring the same Facebook Group (subscription required). Coincidence, or am I being haunted?

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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