I hate buying automobile insurance. It's far too much money I want to spend on something that's not tactile and doesn't provide pleasure, relief, or sustenance. But it's something I need in order to drive. And in economic terms, not only is it an intangible product, it's also inelastic -- it doesn't fall into the category of something not needed. It's required, and no matter what, I must buy it if I want to wheel around town in the old wagon.
But all this doesn't keep me from my displeasure of seeing Flo -- the lady in white who is rather homely but still cute in her own way, with her jet black hair tied up in that beehive wreck of a hairdo. Yeah, you know Flo, too, I'm sure. She's always doing all sorts of things on Progressive's ongoing serialization of her life's antics.
Flo's flowing all over the place, and she's been around for years now.
Do you know this guy? Sure you do, he's more famous than Barack Obama and Kenny Chesney combined! But he's hardly as funny as John Belushi. And nobody's wondering what city he's visiting next.
(image by Kimberly Gauthier | Keep the Tail Wagging)
Other Progressive advertisements featuring Flo are meant to be humorous, too. Some feature two guys -- obvious insurance salesmen from a competing insurance company -- who do everything from breaking into Progressive's corporate headquarters (to discover some secret to the corporate goliath's success), to badgering Flo in sundry ridiculous ways, even jumping into the bushes when they discover they're being filmed and their employer might be privy to this viewership. And these men, who are dressed like used car salesmen -- always come away looking like morons. Personally I find these guys obnoxious and irritating but since humor is such a subjective thing, I guess others might find their antics humorous and entertaining.
advertising window-dressing -- all this drama and comedy -- are accompanied
by Progressive's logo, and usually, how much money you can save by going with this company, along with options for bundling policies and saving bucks. Progressive's leading competitor, also into character serialization - GEICO - uses the statement in every ad that "Fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent
or more" in insurance costs.
GEICO, uses a green little lizard with a Cockney accent as its leading salesman and sometimes stand-up comic. Most recently, the GEICO gecko has traveled coast-to-coast to numerous American cities. It's always apparent that this little guy's making a sales pitch for GEICO, however, and he's not always used as a vehicle for comedy. At times he's as bone dry as a desert wind. A more comic character GEICO has used in recent years, a little piglet named Maxwell, also is an effective salesmen, but not nearly as good as the little green guy. And both animals are more irritating and obnoxious than funny, or, for that matter, even effective. It can be argued that the serialization of advertising actors, whether it be some homely lady in white, a little lizard, or a pig, have totally overshadowed the companies that they're supposed to represent. And I don't know of anyone who's ever told me: "I want to know the next thing Maxwell does," or "I can hardly wait to see the new Flo commercial" or "I want to see if my city is featured by that funny talking gecko thing."
Hey Progressive, how's that facebook advertising working out for you? And how's it going with that never-ending TV blitz of this lady in white with the funky hairdo?
(image by woodleywonderworks)
A Hostess Twinkies commercial, featuring a hungry grizzly bear and a weird couple in a house trailer in the woods ( see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9AFxif9IsM ), is just wild and off-the-wall strange. Hitting the air nearly two decades ago when humor wasn't utilized nearly as much as the driving wheel behind TV advertising, like it is these days, the trailer's transformation into a giant twinkie for a split second near the end and then showing a box of the now defunct cream-filled treats for a bit longer makes me wonder why Hostess even bothered to post what was being marketed.
I know from personal experience that working with humor can be dangerous and dicey. I was a fiction editor for a literary magazine for 12 years and when we decided to publish a humor anthology, it sounded great. The trouble was, the editorial team couldn't ever decide on what was funny and what was a flop. What one editor found hilarious, another found absolutely silly, stupid and sometimes even revolting. In the end, the humor issue turned out to be one of our worst selling efforts and nobody was laughing, including many of our readers.
Humor is a
subjective thing. What one might find hilarious, another might view with a
poker face, and may even find totally stupid, repulsive, or offensive. In this
short video spanning 3:20 minutes, Graeme Newell, emotional marketing expert
for 602 Communications, tries to explain to a group of advertising and
marketing professionals how to use humor to create a success in advertising
Newell says oftentimes in today's televised advertising, it's clear that humor
overtakes everything and the product being sold is lost. An advertisement in which a thief shatters a driver's-side car windshield and
steals a car with a chimpanzee in the backseat is funny, but what's being
sold is unclear. And I agree with Newell. I have no idea what the
Suburban Auto Group is, what it's selling, or what a car thief and a chimpanzee
have to do with it all. Why is that chimp in the picture to begin with? I guess some might see this as humorous and cute, but I
wasn't rolling off my chair in shits and giggles. The two advertisements that
Newell say are effective and funny, however, I don't see as being either. The Bisquick ad breaks out into a corporate
banner at its tail end, and I don't find a rotting roast
wheeled into an emergency room, operated upon by a physician, then fly into the air and explode, with a crying delirious housewife used to close the scene out before flipping on the Bisquick corporate banner for a very brief interval, as humorous or good marketing. The acting in this ad is terrible and a middle-school student could have written a better script. It's stupid and annoying, in my opinion; a farce of a farce - but again, with
humor being a subjective thing, some might roll off their recliners laughing uncontrollably after
viewing this thing. And the ad using an elderly, Old World woman named Yaya, dressed in a dark drab shawl overcoat, with a babushka wrapped around her head, to sell an
Athenos dressing, is not only stupid, it's offensive not only to the old woman
but to the young, sexy, decked-out, modern housewife who Yaya calls "a prostitute". There's nothing funny here at all for me. Anyone with European blood pumping in their veins would probably be a bit ticked-off by this silly attempt at such an ethnic skit.
Mayhem like me? Yes, he's a serial advertising character that gets beat up badly in each commercial. Talk about slapstick overkill!
(image by roberthuffstutter)
A famous National Lampoon saying, "That's not funny,
that's sick," sort of sums up dark, abrasive and offensive comedy. And what was funny in Carol Burnett's or Groucho Marx's time periods might not be good comedy for generations today. Not everyone found
National Lampoon's brand of humor hilarious, but throngs did. And when's the
last time you saw a NatLamp mag on a
bookstore shelf? Ha ha hee hee.
brand recognition is the golden goose all advertisers are seeking in televised
advertisements. All companies really want is for viewers to remember the
name of their company and/or product. And they're more than willing to be
stupid and grating to achieve this result. Just remember our name and what the product we sell is called. Cha-ching, cha-ching.
Instead of employing teams of eggheads with MBAs in marketing, companies should instead hire out-of-work or marginally employed stand-up comics and gag writers. I really think this would make for some great comedy and advertisements. Going to college and earning degrees doesn't make you a George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Adam Sandler, Amy Poehler, or Tina Fey. Funny is funny and these greats really knew, or know, how to make all sorts of different types of personalities have a good, hard, belly laugh. Some of the best comics of all time weren't all that well educated. No, their educations came from experience and trial and error - doing long, grueling, tough years in comedy clubs and off-the-grid, obscure theaters. Being funny had a stiff price for them and their humor came with an intrinsic inevitable price-tag of hard work, disappointment, low-paying gigs and oftentimes tough and challenging lives traveling from city to city, from performance to performance.
to death and although some of us are laughing, if you knew how effective your
brand recognition's comedy was getting all your loose corporate advertising dollars, you might actually cry - Mr. and Ms. CEO. How's about a talking
horse like Mr. Ed? Chimps and monkeys are always humorous, just doing the crazy
things that great apes do. Get a gibbon to sell your toothpaste. How's about a
laughing hyena? A mean-talking, aggressive, nasty-tempered parrot squawking off one liners? Sure, these may work.
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