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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All press is good press?

Abercrombie is not a fan of Jersey Shore. It offered ""substantial payment" to the cast members NOT to wear their clothes on-air. Which is, you know, the opposite of how that usually works - it's reverse product placement. The brand singles out Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino in particular, saying that "his association with the brand could cause significant damage to [their] image," but also says they've extended the offer to the rest of the cast.

Abercrombie has a very clean image. The cast of Jersey Shore does not. It's a trashy show, and the people on it do trashy things. I wonder, though, if this was a PR ploy on Abercrombie's part. Right or wrong, Jersey Shore is a popular show, and retail numbers are down in general. (I actually walked out of an Abercrombie a few months ago, realizing I'm too old to shop there.) You can call me cynical (and I'd agree with you), but I do wonder if this is an attempt to drum up a scandal. MTV thinks so - but that's really the only card it can play when a brand tells them "One of your cash cows is gross."

I will say that while I haven't watched since the first season, but when I did, I never noticed what the cast was wearing unless it was really ugly. And it surprises me that Sitch and 'nem would wear Abercrombie because their stuff is so clean-cut and all-American. The clothes those folks wear conjure up a number of adjectives, but "clean-cut" is not among them. Also, the show has made the cast a lot of money, and from what I hear The Situation has done particularly well (including a stint on Dancing with the Stars). As cocky as he appears to be, I'd expect him to label-drop Gucci every five seconds, not make a point of wearing Abercrombie.

So what do you think? Genuine concern or PR ploy?

*UPDATE: Larry Flynt has offered The Situation cash to wear Hustler brand clothes. I gotta admit, this cracks me up. And The Situation makes out like a bandit either way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sexism in Advertising

There's a very interesting piece on about gender and ethics in advertising. This isn't a new topic, but it's worth revisiting for a few reasons - so no one gets complacent, for one (see also: "We have a Black president so racism is over") and also to examine how it looks as the face of advertising and consumerism changes.

Nicole Skibola cites those terrible "Got Milk?" ads that were meant to tout the health benefits of milk as a PMS cure, but instead (in my opinion) just touted the "women be crazy" stereotype. The ads showed men cowering in fear of the women in their lives and even included a website for men to "seek support,"

Skibola also talks about GoDaddy, whose latest TV spot shows Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels sauntering around a GoDaddy set, nude except for strategically placed logos and stilettos.

They're different kinds of sexist. The Got Milk? ads play up the idea that women are nuts and their menstrual cycles and emotions are to be feared. (Also, as a woman, I don't know any women who snap and start acting the fool during that time of the month - and if they do, a) the men AND women in their lives would call them on it, because menstruation is not an excuse for meanness, and b) they would seek some sort of medical treatment.) GoDaddy is more the standard "sex sells" trope, which has been around for as long as advertising has. Many brands want to be seen as "sexy;" the quickest way to do that is to show something sexy. What's immediately recognized as sexy? A young (or young-looking), conventionally attractive woman who's dressed provocatively. It's pretty lazy, actually, but it also works.

Overwhelmingly, women make the buying decisions for their households. And we don't want to feel like we're supporting a product that tells us we're only as valuable as our cleavage, or that we're emotional nutbars. The branding landscape is changing - it's more interactive, so people, for better or worse, feel more connected to brands. When done well, a brand can feel like an inclusive community for people of similar values and interests. When done poorly, a brand can be ... hurtful. It's not a question anymore of turning off the TV, or turning the page in a magazine when you see an ad you don't like - branding permeates more than these mediums. So when things go wrong, they go really, visibly wrong.

I don't know what the answer is - more market testing? More diversity in hiring? (I think this is the answer to most things, actually.) But I do know that as a consumer, I want to feel special and respected, and not like I'm not being taken seriously because of my gender.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rico vs. Teeny

So, Rico is the weird little squirrel-thing at the helm of Air New Zealand's campaign. David Hasselhoff and Lindsay Lohan make gross and sad (respectively) appearances in the spots. I don't think the spots work at all. But I think Teeny, the monster/college student who promotes the 2012 Civic, works really well. I have the same question about both mascots: "What does this have to do with the product?" And I can come up with an answer for Teeny, and I can't with Rico.

Teeny is an Everygirl who just happens to be a giant monster: she goes to class, shops, and tools around with her friends in her Honda Civic. Teeny is relatable and eye-catching at the same time (relatable because she does stuff most people do; eye-catching because she's a monster). And the product is featured well - not only do we see Teeny driving the Civic, but we see the photo she takes in the booth with her friend in the Civic's dash. It's enough to make you think "Cool feature!" (and something a younger consumer would be interested in - it's clear who the ad is marketed to).

On the other hand, Rico is gross. His bulging green eyes are creepy. And why does he have fangs? Do squirrels have fangs? This is what I found myself wondering, instead of being curious about Air New Zealand. And if he's shilling Air New Zealand, why doesn't he have a New Zealand accent? Why make him sound like a bootleg Pepe LePew?

And his double entendres and lasciviousness are also gross. That look he gives the camera when the Hoff says it was "hard, a lot" working on Baywatch among all the women made me cringe.

Like everything that Lindsay Lohan does these days, her spot makes me sad. (Also, on the superficial tip: can she please, please go back to red hair? Red hair is so cool. There was a girl a few years ahead of me in high school with enough long, thick, red curly hair for three women - to the point where I used to wonder if her head got heavy - and it remains to this day the most spectacular head of hair I've ever seen. The platinum clashes with Lindsay's fake tan and makes her look older. ) No one knows better than I do that a check is a check, but it makes me sad to see her reduced to sitting on Rico's couch having to pretend this is funny.

Most importantly ... what is the actual point of this? Who is the consumer? Why would s/he be drawn to Rico? I guess he's eye-catching, but in a " ... What? Ew" sort of way. Where Teeny is appealing with her cuteness and pink toenails and Everygirl status, Rico the lothario is just nasty, and the tie-in to Air New Zealand is muddled at best.

Spokespeople/animals/puppets can work beautifully. I am not drawn to perpetually perky people, but I loves me some Progressive Flo. But Rico is totally off-putting and ineffective.