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aerie underwear campaign embraces real women February 16, 2014

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Perhaps taking a page out of Dove’s book, American Eagle’s sister store for lingerie, aerie, launched a new ad campaign in 2014 embracing real women. The new ads feature unretouched models in the companies apparel, marking a stark contrast to ads coming from competitors like Victoria’s Secret.

So far, the attention given to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, the women in the ads are still amazingly attractive and hardly representative of the “average” woman. Yet, as one critic for adweek.com stated, “In a world where Photoshop morphs already super hot models into super hot models with thigh gap and flawless skin and inhuman proportions (Google Victoria’s Secret Photoshop Fails for glorious examples), this is a step in the right direction.”

For more on this new campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How might campaigns like aerie’s change the culture of objectification of women? Is this even possible?

2.  Are such strategies becoming commonplace mainly to combat objectification, or to market products with a greater sense of goodwill?

An anti-abuse campaign designed for kids February 16, 2014

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A Spanish organization called the Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation (ANAR) has designed an anti-abuse campaign uniquely designed for kids. A billboard ad was displayed in public showing different messages from different angles. For an adult, or anyone over four-and-a-half feet tall, the ad shows a sad child with the message, “sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” When a child sees the ad, though, they see the same kid with bruises on his face and a different message that reads (along with a phone number), “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you.” The ad was widely praised for its creativity, but some experts question whether the technique could eventually be abused to target kids with advertising invisible to adults.

For more on this story, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Are there ethical concerns involved in targeting kids with advertising that cannot be seen by adults? Why, or why not?

2.  How else could this innovative approach be used beneficially for PSA’s? What kinds of messages could alternatively target adults (assuming that kids could not see them)?

FDA targets teens with unique anti-smoking campaign February 6, 2014

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The Food and Drug Administration has been trying to figure out, for perhaps decades now, how to convince teens not to smoke. It may finally have an answer: concentrate on the short-term harms of cigarettes. In a new $115 million campaign, the organization is running several ads focusing on how smoking affects kids’ appearances. You know, ruining skin and damaging smiles. Costing a fortune. Making you smell. The ads are graphic, and by most accounts extremely effective. What experts are noting about the campaign is that it uses big tobacco’s most effective strategies against itself. Think smoking will make you friends and make you look cool? Think again.

For more on this campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why are so many kids drawn to smoking? How does the FDA’s campaign attempt to address those reasons?

2.  Is the campaign too graphic? Will it work? How would we know?

3.  What is the difference between anti-smoking ads targeting short-term versus long-term effects of smoking? Why is the FDA changing its strategy in this campaign?

“Learn for Life” ad goes viral: Can real orgs learn from hoax? February 6, 2014

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A new public service announcement is going viral. The ad released in January shows two teen couples skipping school and heading for the beach. They drink, remove most of their clothes, and frolic in the sand. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, one of the girls steps on a landmine and blows up. The rest of the group goes in the same bloody, gory manner. At the end of the commercial, a warning flashes, “This is what happens when you slack off. Stay in school.” The ad was apparently created for the Learn for Life Foundation of Western Australia, a non-profit organization. In reality, the ad is a hoax created by filmmaking duo Henry Inglis and Aaron McCann. The two used the opportunity to create something unsettling-but-funny to promote their work. The public took the bait.

What’s most interesting about this ad is its viral potential. In almost a week alone, it received over 13 million views on YouTube. As some critics pointed out, it mastered B-movie horror comedy in ways that clearly registered with some, and horrified others. But it did the trick, and there’s obviously something to be learned from this genre of hoax ads.

To see the ad yourself, watch it here:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What are the characteristics of viral videos?

2.  How did the video above contain those characteristics?

3.  What can other organizations learn from the “Learn for Life” hoax campaign?

Big food companies try to get kid friendly January 26, 2014

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Almost 20 big food companies recently announced that they were adopting a new system that would make it easier to compare food values across products and brands. The group included the Campbell Soup Co., General Mills, Kellogg, Pepsi, Kraft, and many others. The companies also announced that products that couldn’t be in compliance would either be cut or not be advertised to kids. The move follows an effort by the group to cut sugar and other harmful ingredients to make them more kid friendly.

The self-regulation efforts by big food companies has been seen, too, in McDonald’s. The company recently announced that it would not (and has not for the most part) marketed to kids in schools, and even signed an agreement with the Clinton Foundation concerning how it would market soda products with Happy Meals.

For more on efforts to cut back on food products and their ads targeting kids, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why is the food industry engaging in so much self regulation concerning products traditionally targeting kids? What’s at stake if this self regulation does not happen?

2.  Is self regulation enough? Can big food companies prevent federal regulation of products traditionally targeting kids?

3.  Why food ads targeting kids so controversial? Why are they considered unethical by certain critics?

The amazing ad blitz for Anchorman 2 December 30, 2013

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Anchorman 2 has been rolled out with an advertising campaign rarely seen in the marketing world. Will Ferrell, the actor who plays the misogynistic news anchor, kicked off the campaign with an announcement in early 2013 on Conan O’Brien’s night show, that a sequel was in the works. As NPR described recently, the official blitz has featured a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, an exhibit at the national Newseum, several car commercials, an event at Emerson College marking the school’s renaming its communication department after the character for a day, and appearances on news programs across the country.

Why the massive ad blitz? As the Christian Science Monitor‘s Schuyler Velasco explained, the film’s target demographic is younger males. Because such young audiences don’t watch programming where traditional advertising works best, the alternative is to generate buzz that will make certain ads and appearances go viral. It’s little surprise that someone as skilled as Ferrell could help pull this off.

For more on Ferrell’s many appearances for Anchorman 2‘s marketing, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Which of Ferrell’s latest appearances for Anchorman 2  have you heard about?

2.  How does the ad campaign described here differ from traditional ad campaigns? Why is it employed?

3.  How has media demassification led to a need for more creative ad campaigns?

Pantene ad on women appeals to global audience December 19, 2013

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A Philippine ad for Pentene went viral in December. The spot portrays the double-bind that women often face, being labeled negatively for things for which men get praised. Well over 8 million people have viewed the ad on YouTube. It helped that Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg called it “one of the most powerful videos I have seen illustrating how when men and women do the same things they are seen in completely different ways.” Unsurprisingly, Procter & Gamble is taking the ad campaign global now.

While many are calling the new ad campaign uplifting and empowering, some women don’t see it the same way. Comedian and writer Hesseltine wrote for The Huffington Post, “This is playing the victim if I’ve ever witnessed it, and not all women think this way, nor want to. But thanks for the note, Pantene.” Hesseltine sarcastically concluded:

“Yes, women still get paid less than men and it blows; so let’s see an intelligent article/video exploring that with facts, educated opinions, and an inspirational undertone rather than a “woe is women” piece with a song that should be on an ASPCA commercial. How about: “Screw double standards! You can do anything men can do… and even do it better!” instead of “Don’t forget ladies, while men are being persuasive, you may come off as pushy. And don’t show too much confidence or people will think you’re showy.””

To see the Pantene ad yourself, watch the following video:


Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the double-bind for women? How does Pantene tap into common experiences for females to build goodwill for its products?

2.  Is the Pantene ad genuine, or a mere cooptation of feminism?

3.  Is Hesseltine’s criticism over the top? Why, or why not?

Same old song and dance? Advertising ethics and the e-cigarette November 29, 2013

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The use of e-cigarettes is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 4 million Americans now use e-cigarettes, and about 10 percent of high school students in 2012 reported they had tried them. The rise of e-cigarettes, which are supposed to help smokers quite the real thing, poses an interesting problem for regulators. While cigarettes have been banned from television ads since the 1970s, e-cigarettes can be advertised without many restrictions. The distinction between the products is that e-cigarettes generate vapor rather than tobacco smoke, and the Food and Drug Administration has not yet ruled whether they can be sold or marketed to minors.

For examples of e-cigarette ads, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What was the legal rationale for banning certain kinds of cigarette marketing? Should that rationale apply to e-cigarettes?

2.  If e-cigarette marketing should be regulated, what kind of regulations should it face?

3.  Is there anything ethically wrong with e-cigarette marketing in general?

As simple as a prank: New viral ads rely on trickery November 29, 2013

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There’s a new trend in viral advertising. Many are calling it “prankvertising.” The concept is simple: plan an elaborate prank, perform it in a public place, and record the response. Then, watch as views of the video online pile up.

There are plenty of hilarious examples of prankvertising online. A promotion for the remake of horror film Carrie was promoted in a video called “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise.” The ad featured an actress freaking out in a coffee shop – a real one call ‘sNice in Manhattan – and lifting a barista into the air with her special powers. As everyone watches in a stunned fashion, the woman moves tables, books, and even the pictures on the walls. It now has well over 45 million hits on YouTube alone.  Another film, The Last Exorcism Part II was similarly marketed with a ghoulish figure in a mirror scaring patrons at a beauty salon. The film Dead Man Down was also advertised by pranking people into believing that they discovered a murder victim in an elevator.

For examples of prankvertising mentioned in this post, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why is prankvertising so successful?

2.  What are the risks of prankvertising? How could it create some backlash?

3.  Is prankvertising like that above unethical?

With “Walking Dead” popular, gore is all the rage in Halloween advertising October 19, 2013

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Seeking a creative edge, and a way to please audiences who are flocking to such scary shows as The Walking Dead, ad agencies are finding ways to scare the heck out of consumers. Do you remember a single ad for DieHard batteries? Unlikely, until now. A new ad for the product is a full 70 seconds long, highlighting an escape from a pack of zombies ruined when a car’s battery does not work. There’s also a hilarious story of betrayal and payback in the ad, one that makes it work incredibly well.It’s no surprise the ad has even gone viral on YouTube (with more than 1 million views!).

Indeed, the trend of super graphic, incredibly scary ads is all the rage just before Halloween 2013. Booking.com, for example, is turning heads with an ad highlighting “haunted” hotels, all in the style of a movie trailer for a horror film. As one writer for The New York Times argued, these new kinds of ads follow the same trend on television, with shows like American Horror Story, The Vampire Diaries, and Bates Motel all getting very popular.

To see the ads from Booking.com and DieHard, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why the strategy of scaring audiences? How do advertisers win with this strategy?

2.  How is this strategy also risky? Are such ads suitable for small children who might be in the viewing audience?

3.  What other ads out there are using similar strategies, and using them well?