If I Were in Charge of All the Advertising Directed at Children…

If somebody said to me, “Hey, Julija, how would you like to be in charge of all of the advertising directed at children?” I would be ecstatic. There is a lot of good advertising out there, but there’s also a lot of bad stuff, too. The biggest problem that I see, and that honestly makes no sense to me, is an extreme gendering of toy advertising directed at children. When I was a kid there was gendering, of course, but there was also a lot of middle ground. There were toys that were for both boys and girls and I liked that. I have thought a lot about this phenomenon and the only thing I can think of as the cause is this:  as the internet pushes more and more targeted marketing the toy/cereal/childhood industries are trying to do so as well. But, here’s the deal, kids are much more impressionable than adults. They don’t know what they like or dislike. So, targeted marketing for children has this strange side effect of actually creating the targeting it targets.

“Why is that such a big deal?” You’re probably asking. Well, think about the ads that have come out recently that your kid is probably watching, specifically toy ads. Do you really want you little girl to think that all she can play with are dolls and fairy princesses? Do you want your little boy to think that trucks and tools are the only things he should like? There have been quite a few backlashes to the female side of this, see goldieblox and this interview with Rachel Giordano. However, I have seen a startling lack of backlash in the boys department. Yes, products for girls tend to be sexist in an overt way, but products for boys are too. They may have much more variety in the types of toys, but they still send a message that is not entirely positive. I’m not saying that the focus should move towards backlash for young boys; I’m saying that the backlash should be for children in general.

So, I have been given control of all the advertising and what do I do? First, I don’t allow stores to separate toys by gender. Put all the Disney toys together, I say! Second, I would start a new trend in commercials where no matter if the toy is a ‘boy toy’ or a ‘girl toy’, it shows both boys and girls playing with it and enjoying it. Girls can enjoy laser shooting, color changing, bad guy fighting toys as much as boys; and boys can like sparkly, outfit changing, soft and cuddly toys as much as girls. Lastly, I would encourage toy companies to educate parents and their children about advertising. “Raise your kids as cynics,” says this New York Times article. Parents are starting to respond to transparency in companies, and if we can change the way parents think about their kids/gender maybe we can raise an awesome new generation!


Super Bowl Game Plan

This week’s marketing post is going to be a marketing campaign/ plan specifically for the Super Bowl. I don’t have a specific company in mind but I outline some broad swatches to narrow down what kinds of companies/products I think this strategy is best for. I used my own personal experience with the Super Bowl as well as these studies:

There are a couple things to think about when deciding to do a Super Bowl spot:

Cost: a national ad may cost up to three times more than a regional one. Also, the marketers need to consider whether or not they are certain to get a return on their investment. There has been no evidence that companies that choose to not participate in the Super Bowl ad frenzy get penalized (they may not be rewarded as much as other companies, but they won’t be penalized).

Type of commercial: The type of commercial is vital to a company’s Super Bowl ad success. In general people respond best to humor, but the product of service being sold needs to be factored in. Another factor to consider is the branding/product tie in. Commercials that are funny and memorable may not increase sales if they don’t feature the brand or product in a memorable way.  Communicus speaks about the Budweiser “Brotherhood” ad and why it was so successful.This ad is all about friendship and lifelong bonds, and that’s the feeling people want when drinking Budweiser. When taking your own brand and product it helps to think about what you want your customer to feel when using the product, and trying to evoke that feeling in the commercial instead of just trying to be wacky and memorable.

Social Media: Social media is changing the way Super Bowl ads are seen and perceived. This info graphic sums it up pretty well I think.

Making sure that you have someone managing the social side of your company on the big day is vital. Sometimes the most memorable moments (see: Oreo tweet about blackout) are spontaneous. Also, having a post-game plan as to how to continue promoting your advertisement in order to get the most out of the ad, and engage your customer.

Overall, I personally think that for most companies the Super Bowl ad spot is a waste of money, but it can also be incredibly fruitful. It is a high risk, high reward situation, but if you carefully plan your strategy out beforehand, while allowing for some flexibility, you are more likely to succeed.

What to do about you….

Husband Accidentally Uses Summer’s Eve, Then Proves He’s the Real Douche | Adweek.

This ^ is a great article about the world that advertisements are set in, and what rules govern them (in this case, specifically, gender role rules.) This campaign struck me because it is almost identical to at least 10 other campaigns I can think of ranging over a variety of products (yogurt, lean pockets, anything diet) from the past five year. This article does a great job outlining the problems with the campaign and the mindset of the industry in general. I’m hoping to expand on the article, however, and offer a solution to the conundrum Ms. Cullers posits.

She writes, “’Feminine care’ products are divisive among women and practically loathed by many feminists who feel the products exist solely to thrive on manufacturing a sense of shame about women’s privates. So what’s a marketer to do? Go with the one safe trope that everyone seems to agree on: Guys are dumb.” I can see what she is saying, but I also think that just pointing out the problem doesn’t help much. So, here’s my take. The problems I see with this ad campaign that I’m going to attempt to rectify are:

  1. They are relying on traditional media and are thus forced to jump through an absurd amount of hoops because of the nature of their product,
  2. They are assuming things about their consumers that are not necessarily true and outdated,
  3. And they’re not being honest.

I understand that marketing ‘unsavory products’ is always a challenge because people don’t really want to think about those kinds of things. However, I think that being frank with consumers is the upward trend in advertising, and consumers in general are responding positively (especially if the company is trying to reach a younger consumer). So, without any knowledge of what the goal of this campaign was besides boosting sales here are my solutions broken down by problem.

  1. Summer’s Eve should start using new media for campaigns like this. The reason I propose this strategy is because online you can say vagina as much as you want (not really, but you know….). And how can you sell a product specifically formulated for the female genitalia without using the word? Using new media also has the benefit of reaching the young consumer that may see ‘feminine wash’ as something their grandmother uses.
  2. Go out on a limb for once! I’m not saying abandon all your campaigns in favor of a new one, but sometimes it pays to take a risk. Even if you fail, people will start paying attention to the company, and there is always a way to recover from a failure (and a lot of times the recovery makes a company better). This idea that consumers are delicate flowers who need their sensibilities protected is quickly becoming outdated. Embrace it.
  3. This is an easy (and in my opinion, the most important) fix, be honest. Yes it’s not entirely pleasant to talk about chemical imbalances in the vagina, but it’s important. I don’t want to buy a product that is made for me, allegedly, but features a man in the advertisement. I also don’t want to buy a product that is uncomfortable with itself. Own what you are and be confident in it, because my generation thrives on that.

The main thing I’m trying to get at is that it’s no longer okay for companies to just advertise things, they need to start a dialogue with the consumer. Otherwise, all they get is a collective sign and the channel changed.

P.S. I realize that I am being pretty hypocritical with this article because the ad is a ‘failure’, and we’re talking about it so it can’t be so unsuccessful. And although technically you are right, you are also wrong. This campaign was not created to start a discussion, and it has not led to one. It has led to a lot of consumers sighing, rolling their eyes and changing the channel.

P.P.S. in the beginning of this blog post I mentioned the prevalence of these kinds of ads in the market today, and so I’m hoping that although I chose to focus on this specific ad, there is a general take away that can be applied to multiple ad campaigns.