Last week the FTC told Nestlé to stop lying in its advertising for Kid Essentials, a so-called “nutritionally complete drink.”
The ads claimed that the product protected kids from getting colds and diarrhea, and reduced absenteeism from school. Why? Because the straw enclosed with the drink was contained probiotics.
The FTC action is good news. The sad news is that it took a regulatory agency to make a major, trusted company halt an immoral practice.
Advertising is an important part of free trade. But not when it lies. There is a wide continuum between putting one's best foot forward and outright lying. To read an article I wrote taking to task marketers who push the boundaries too far, click here
. —Steve Cuno
Steve Jobs is a class act. “We’re not perfect, and phones aren’t perfect either,” Jobs said in a press conference today, “but we want to make all of our users happy.” Now, it’s one thing to claim you care about customers; it’s quite another to show that you do. And show is exactly what Jobs proceeded to do next. Upset about the iPhone 4’s alleged signal loss? Apple is offering full refunds for the next 30 days. Concerned about signal loss but want to keep the phone? Through September 30, Apple will give you a free case for your trouble.
I think the iPhone kerfuffle is much ado about nothing, a point that Jobs didn’t shrink from making. But the refund and case offers are a great show of good faith.
Trust is a major brand attribute. There is no better way to build trust than by taking trustworthy actions. Kudos to Jobs and Apple.
Prevention Magazine just published results from a survey in which they asked consumers how much attention they pay to prescription drug advertising. Here are the highlights:
• 79% of consumers say they saw and heard risks TV ads are required to cover.
• 75% say they find the information useful.
• With regard to print ads, 48% said they understood drug risks, and 52% said they understood benefits.
Interesting results, perhaps suggestive. But they are not conclusive. Any good researcher, psychologist or marketer should know better than to rely on self-reporting to assess outcomes. When you ask people what they heard and didn’t hear, or understood and didn’t understand, their answers are more likely to reflect their self-concept than the facts.
This research would have been more revealing had it included a simple quiz. It would be interesting to see if the 79% who said they saw and heard risks could answer quiz questions about the drugs that the 21% could not.
Actor Larry Hagman has reprised his role as oil magnate J.R. Ewing in a new commercial for a German company. Except this time, he’s eschewing oil and endorsing solar. In a New York Times interview, Hagman said he agreed to appear in the spot because he felt outraged over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Hagman told the Times, “Since Sarah Palin is saying ‘Drill, baby, drill,’ I’m saying ‘Shine, baby, shine.’ It’s a lot cheaper and cleaner.”
These are tough times. Even flimflammers want to hire us. Usually, flimflammers need no help selling flimflam. Yet in the past month alone we kicked out three from our office even as they tried to slither in.
Their products are legal, although “not illegal” says it better. Anyone cursed with a conscience knows that “not illegal” is a far cry from “perfectly OK.”
Don’t feel bad for them. They will have no trouble finding and hiring a capable direct marketer. Either one who doesn’t dig deep enough to see that the products are flimflam, or one who doesn’t care.
We are keeping our doorstep clear for legitimate companies with legitimate products. I am pleased to report that one came a-calling today. Take that, Recession!
There’s nothing quite like seeing an audience’s eyes glaze over as you fire up the projector. Though this form of torture is not quite as agonizing as waterboarding, even extreme Right Wing readers will concede the advantage that it is not nearly as messy. Want to render your audience comatose? Here’s how:
1 - Write down what you want to say. 2 - Copy and paste excerpts from your speech onto your slides. The longer the excerpts and the smaller the type, the better. 3 - The more photos, charts, graphs, etc. you cram onto a single slide, the more uninviting and confusing it will be. 4 - Use animations wantonly, just because you can. 5 - Speak in a monotone, eyes glued to your notes. For you renegades who want to engage your audience, here’s how to do a PowerPoint right:
- Think in terms of concepts to convey. Worry about how you’ll word it later.
- Look for ways to convey concepts visually. A slide that repeats what you’re saying makes either you or the slide unnecessary. So use slides to illustrate rather than parrot. Suppose you want to talk about anger. Instead of a slide with a paragraph about anger, show a photo of: a cat bearing fangs, a red-faced person, steam coming out of ears, an erupting volcano… etc.
- Surprise ’em every 9 minutes. People tend to tune out at about the 10-minute mark. So every 9 minutes or less, introduce a visual that has what I like to call “head-scratcher” value: an unexpected image that will make sense only when you explain it. Partway through one of my marketing presentations, I show a cartoon-illustration of a microscopic germ. What does the germ have to do with marketing? That’s the point. You have to listen to find out.
- Use slides and remarks to create synergy. To illustrate the ineffectiveness of of trying to illuminate minds by means of brow-beating, in a recent presentation I showed a photo of a baseball bat and said, “This is not a light switch.” It was well-received. (How do I know? See Point 10 below.) Neither the slide nor the statement alone would have conveyed anything, but together they communicated with power. So effectively, I might add, that there was no need to say more on that particular point. So I moved on, and my audience didn’t seem to mind.
- Never use word slides as a default visual. Sure, sometimes for emphasis it’s appropriate to display a key phrase, word for word, as you speak it. But most of the time, avoid word slides. They usually signal that you need to work harder at communicating visually.
- Remember that no one can read a screen filled with small type. Nor does anyone want to.
- Overkill kills. Once you’ve made your point, move on. The only time to return to it is in a recap or to reinforce an ongoing theme.
- Once you have figured out how to convey your concepts visually, go ahead and write down your remarks. At that point, odds are that something magical will happen. Namely, your remarks will set up and play off of your visuals. That is where engaging presentations begin.
- Rehearse. Smooth speakers aren’t smooth by accident. They rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. Besides smoothing your delivery, rehearsing will also help you avoid committing Speakers Deadly Sin Number 6, namely, going way over your allotted time. I am often surprised at the number of one-hour talks that take two, and how “just five minutes more” usually takes 30. Audiences hate speakers who take liberties with their time. Plus, rehearsing lets you...
- Look up at your audience every now and then. Constant eye contact isn’t mandatory, but the occasional look around is. There are two reasons for this. One, audiences like being spoken with more than they like being read to. Two, you can benefit from immediate feedback. If you see yawns, eyes wandering, slouching or people whispering and passing notes instead of focusing on you, you can change your pace or tone, or at least vow to prepare something better next time. Keeping your eyes glued to your notes robs you of any chance to improve.
If you follow these suggestions, don’t blame me if your audience stays awake and gets what you’re trying to say. —Steve Cuno
Everyone has a story about deceptive advertising, or ads that sell bad or needless products. But advertising does good things, too. Helping keep the economy moving is an obvious yet often overlooked example. Here’s an instance where direct mail advertising powerfully combats a heinous practice, as cited in the latest edition of Alan Rosenspan's Improve Your Response Newsletter:
The Child Soldier Donation Appeal sent out official-looking draft notices to 10-year old children in Germany. The letters requested that the children report for army duty immediately. Parents were understandably outraged. Until they read the bottom of the notice: “Unthinkable in Germany. Common practice in other countries around the world.” The campaign generated a 6% response and raised a great deal of money for the cause.
Many of you asked me to let you know if my presentation at this year’s The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) will be streamed live, as it was last year. The answer is yes. In fact, all of TAM will be. You can watch your pick of speakers here, free.
The keynote will be given by Richard Dawkins. Click here for a schedule of speakers and events
TAM is sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). While debunking unprovable claims is a major part of the JREF’s work, so is the positive promotion of humanistic values and rational thought. TAM is the largest convention of its kind. Last year’s event drew about 1100 attendees from all over the world, plus another 700 online.
My presentation is scheduled for Sunday morning, July 11, 10:55-ish, give or take. (Remember that this is Pacific Time
.) If you have nothing better to do and no more self-respect than to tune in for my 10 minutes (that’s all I get this year), I’d be honored. My presentation is Confessions of a Skeptical Advertising Man: How to “sell” critical thinking to friends and associates
, a title I freely admit to having ripped off from Mr. Ogilvy. —Steve Cuno
Kudos to Domino’s pizza. Henceforth no Domino’s food product photos will be retouched. What you see is what they baked. There was no mention, however, of doing away with food stylists, lighting experts, professional food photographers, showing only the best out of thousands of shots, and so forth. But it’s a start.
Plus, you’ll be able to shoot and upload a pic of your pizza to a Domino’s “Show Us Your Pizza” website. If they use your pic in an ad, you’ll get $500.
Excellent. There’s nothing like showing things as they really are to win consumer confidence. Assuming, of course, that your product still has a modicum of appeal when it hasn’t been retouched.
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The milk mustache campaign is about to spill over into online media. Nothing like taking a costly campaign that has yet to affect milk sales and extending its reach at considerable expense.
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Any interest in buying ABC? Rumor has it that Disney might part with it for $10 billion.
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Musical agencies: Chrysler is hunting for a new advertising agency. JetBlue just switched to a new one. Sometimes switching agencies can help, but sometimes it’s a charade so you can tell your board of directors that you’ve “done something about marketing.” Switching agencies is like switching doctors. Your new doc may diagnose and treat something that had gone unnoticed. But sometimes the solution is for the patient to eat better and exercise more. Before you decide that a new agency will solve all your ills, be sure you have a product that works, that people want, and that gives your customers a positive buying experience. Ad campaigns can’t fix things like that.
Want to improve your marketing skills? Attend the upcoming Amaz!ing Meeting
, sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation.
The Amaz!ng Meeting isn’t a marketing convention. It’s better. Marketing is rife with myths that get regurgitated and re-ingested at typical marketing conventions. (I expose quite a few in my book Prove It Before You Promote It .)
By contrast, the Amaz!ng Meeting is about rational thinking. You’ll be blown away at how often and how easily you — yes, you
— can be duped. You’ll pick up new skills for putting assumptions, including rampantly accepted ones, to the test, so that you’ll never be duped again. Sounds like a good idea for someone whose job is to wisely spend sizable marketing budgets.
The Amaz!ng Meeting happens this week in Las Vegas. Main sessions are Friday and Saturday. Speakers include entertainers, biologists, physicists, astronomers, magicians, physicians, you name it. The keynote will be given by the inimitable Richard Dawkins. Attendance this year will top 1,100. Yours Truly will give a brief 10-minute presentation Sunday morning at 9:50 PT. But don’t let that put you off attending. You can, after all, skip my part.
Leave behind those marketing conventions where cronies recycle the same old tripe and try something that challenges your thinking instead. The Amaz!ng Meeting is the most mind-clarifying and expanding event you can attend.
Though the online registration deadline has passed, you can register in person. Short of that, you will be able to watch sessions online via a live feed. When the link becomes available, I’ll post it here. —Steve Cuno