Marketing Non Sequitur

It’s hard for marketing professionals to not look at the world a bit differently than most folks. We are always on the lookout for new ideas to reach our audiences. And they are not too hard to find.

We are all in marketing overload, bombarded on a daily basis by our clever peers who look at everything in the immediate environment with a “your ad here” sign attached to it. There’s no escaping the marketer’s message, from bar coasters, to car radios, to banner ads, even your favorite box of breakfast cereal. (You know you still read the box, so don’t try to hide it.) Marketing is ubiquitous.

As we move through our marketing-saturated environment, every now and then we stop, look, think, then ask, “What on earth were they thinking?” Just in case you were wondering, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

While breaking out from the pack with clutter-busting marketing should be a goal, the “marketing non sequitur” is not necessarily your best move. Whether it’s bizarre creative or questionable media placement, it’s becoming more and more a common occurrence when you feel that someone somewhere has just blown a lot of cash. And in spite of the fact that I will get an enormous amount of email in contradiction, here are some of my most favorite recent miscues:

Marchfirst, Travel Expert Marchfirst is the new name of the recently merged ad agencies U.S. Web/CKS and Whitman-Hart. It’s hard to miss its splashy new ad campaign announcing the newly formed company with the theme “The Power of Being First.”

One ad features sobbing sweet-sixteens pawing at a chain-link fence fixated on the object of their affection the caption reads “the first rock star.” I actually like the creative, but why on earth am I seeing this ad in my favorite travel magazine? Adweek, yes. BusinessWeek, OK. Travel and Leisure: You are wasting your time. When I read my travel magazine, I do it to escape work, not to be reminded of it. Unless you start offering travel packages, this is as off-base as it gets.

Now we will hear from the Marchfirst gang, and they will tell us about the affluent individuals who read this particular magazine that overlap with their key audience, and they want reach and frequency, and etc., etc. I don’t buy it and Marchfirst shouldn’t buy it either this type of media, that is.

Marchfirst has a strong campaign that can break through the noise of the traditional channels used by its key audiences. It should trust its own ads and let the ads work for them in the right environment. And by the way guys, if you are going to advertise in consumer media I read at home, make the web site work better with my lowly home-computer modem.

Webvan Forest Deliveries I have loved the recent Webvan ads. If you don’t have Webvan in your town yet (most of you don’t), the ads focus on the hassles and pitfalls of supermarket shopping and highlight Webvan’s advantages. One ad, destined to be a classic, shows various consumers rummaging over fresh nectarines in a supermarket produce section through the point of view of an ever-watchful security camera. I promise you, it will make you think twice next time you buy produce.

But the newest offering is bewildering. Two hikers move briskly through the forest to a service road and wait anxiously with their eye on the watch. A Webvan pulls up and delivers a pack of toilet paper as one of the hikers grabs it and sprints into the woods. The voice-over touts their 30-minute delivery guarantee. Now maybe it makes the point, and maybe outrageous situations can get attention, but to stoop (literally) to toilet humor for grocery deliveries with a situation none of us will ever face in real life is a stretch. Hey Webvan, your produce ad motivates trial with this recent offering, we should put you on trial.

DoubleClick , Jazz Aficionado DoubleClick loves jazz. How do I know this? They recently were the major sponsor of San Francisco’s North Beach Jazz Festival. Streetlights through the city were decked with banners for the festival, which prominently feature DoubleClick as the sponsor.

For the uninitiated in the online advertising world, DoubleClick is a solution provider for those who need to target their online advertising efforts and is one of the vanguards of the online advertising business. So it’s important for accountants, store clerks, delivery folks, waiters, lawyers, doctors, and all the rest of us to know who DoubleClick is, right? To the marketing department at DoubleClick: Stick to the seminars on how to advertise on the web and leave these sponsorships to Absolut Vodka. If you want to bump your stock price with the retail market, focus on earnings, not jazz.

Do you have a favorite “non sequitur” you want to share? Send them my way, and I’ll compile them for a future missive.

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