TheodoreSLaBarbera.com

Since 2003, the off-ramp on the Information Superhighway.

Category: marketing

Ad: Thanks for Giving Me Cancer, Mom and Dad!

At their most basic level, television commercials are designed to appeal to consumers on a raw, emotional level. You HAVE to have this product. You NEED this product. It’s all part of the “Ikea Nesting Egg Theory” made famous in Fight Club: how does this brand or product define you as a person?

Even more effectively, some commercials opt for negative reinforcement: instead of building you up, they go for the opposite. You find yourself publicly shamed and humiliated for not listing to the message (cue a sad Sarah McLaughlin song as starving puppies fill the screen). The ad is preying upon your primal fears and guilt to spur you to act from your safe, secure nest at home.

Case in point: this recent ad by pharmeceutical company Merck, in promotion of its Gardasil vaccine for the HPV virus.

So yeah, not only can you no longer get a boner without a little blue pill, because YOU didn’t get your kids this vaccine against the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease (perhaps because you are a God-fearing, Bible-thumping conservative mired deep in repression and denial about the activities of your progeny), you just ensured that they get cancer later on in life! Great job, mom and dad! Thanks!

I guess it’s still better than this head-scratchingly awful 9/11-themed mattress sale commercial, though!

Poor Design: Time Warner Cable

Undoubtedly, when I return to the office tomorrow, I’ll hear cries and wailing anguish from the Powers That Be about how they know so much more than I do about Web design, communications, and marketing — despite the fact that I’m the only one with a masters degree (sort of) and a decade of experience in the field.  But it’s all good.  In this digital day and age, a Web site is a company’s primary public relations and messaging vehicle, so a little “heat” comes with the valuable territory.

That being said, sometimes issues present themselves that, in fact, are the fault of the company and present a bad face to the outside consumer.  These issues, from poor interface to technical snafus to simple matters of infrastructure, are ultimately as important as whether or not the Flash movie on the homepage is called a “leaderboard” or not, and, without prompt resolution, render all other debates moot.

Today’s journey across the Web begins with Time Warner Cable of New York and New Jersey.  Approximately one year ago, TWC did a fantastic job of upgrading its Web site and online account information into an aesthetically pleasing, Web-2.0 look and feel, complete with colorful prompts, modal windows for user interface elements, and a crisp, simple, elegant design.  All in all, the site is a joy to use and pay my monthly bill on — and let’s face it, eliminating as much of the pain as possible for the customer when forced to fork over large sums of cash ultimately cannot help but improve the overall accounts receivable outlook for any organization.

Too bad the darn site just doesn’t work in my Web browser of choice, Google Chrome.  By this, I don’t mean it merely displays a little wonky or feels a bit “off,” I mean the site literally shuts down and tells you to get the fuck out:

[Editor’s Note 01/17/17: As far and as long as I have searched through my own personal archives, this image appears to be lost forever. Which renders the whole post moot, of course, but I repost anyway for the sake of history and to one day build a comprehensive archive.]

 

I won’t pretend that, as a Chrome user, I’m not a tad on the bleeding edge of early adopters when it comes to browsing software.  That being said, the days of dominance of Internet Explorer are slowly coming to an end, and whereas a Web team could once build sites and programming solely for Microsoft’s platform of choice, today the line is becoming a bit more blurred.  The decision to “close off” the entire site is also somewhat perplexing: there are any number of PHP, .NET, JavaScript, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and Cold Fusion sites that work across any system — I browse (or have helped build) hundreds of them every day.  What sort of weird, proprietary client-side code is Time Warner running that just completely renders a non-standard browsing experience a total failure?  That must be a bear of a code base to maintain and update.

Poor design.

America Off-Line

AOLMy work-related e-mail and social media accounts were all a-flutter this morning over AOL’s announcement that it is abandoning its traditional running man/triangular logos for something new and fresh.

AOL Sunday revealed the new brand identity it will begin using Dec. 10th, when it spins off as a free-standing, publicly traded company from Time Warner. Actually, it revealed several of them. The new identity/ies is built around a new, constantly changing logo that replaces its trademark “running man” with an array of characters ranging from a goldfish to stylized graffiti-like images to a hand sign known as an illuminati gesture.

Nothing says “reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic” more than a company that changes its logo in a last-ditch attempt to regain relevancy and market share.  It is the hallmark of all dying organizations; you could fill an entire textbook with examples.  This particular one does little to inspire me to think otherwise…especially since, in a partial lower-case font, the logo is now not so much an acronym as it is someone meekly saying “awwwwl.”

It’s funny (sad, actually) that the article above and hype make no mention of actual changes to content or business practices at the newly independent former Internet powerhouse.  Content and value, and the way that a company communicates those things to consumers, are the core drivers to a stable and successful business.  GE has made it for over a century now with an unchanged logo but a constantly innovating technological focus.

So, what’s next for AOL?  Clearly, life as an Internet Service Provider has long since flat-lined in a world of mobile and cable broadband.  Perhaps its future lies as the next digital video innovator: a platform with little size or length restrictions (i.e., “not YouTube”) and access to hundreds if not millions of ad-supported clips from users, movies, television, or even business conferences.  The cost might be prohibitive, of course, but I’m struggling to think of ways that this company can stay even remotely relevant into 2010.

Good luck to Tim Armstrong and company…they are going to need it.

Introduction to Facebook for Associations

A few weeks ago, I received an offer from Scott Oser at the College of Association Marketing to participate in a series of Webinars tailored to the novices of the association social media set.  After a great first offering — Intro to Social Media with Deirdre Reid (with me as sidekick/color commentator) — today was my chance to present Introduction to Facebook for Associations (with Deirdre returning the favor as the Phil Simms to my Jim Nantz).  It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity, and I’m grateful for the chance to work with the super-cool Scott and Deirdre.

Here is a copy of the presentation deck, for those interested.

In addition, here is a wide array of links and resources that might be of further study/use to those who attended the Webinar or are interested in the topic of social media.

1. “Facebook: The Complete Biography,” (Mashable.com, August 2006)

2. “Facebook Surpasses 175 Million Users, Continuing to Grow by 600k Users/Day,” (Inside Facebook Blog, February 2009)

3. Page Rank 10 Web Sites (Search Engine Genie)

4. Google Page Rank (PRChecker.info)

5. Alexa Top 500 Global Sites (Alexa.com)

6. Compete Site Comparison With MySpace and LinkedIn (Compete.com)

7. Facebook Vanity URL

8. Facebook Causes and Fundraising

9. American Academy of Physicians Assistants Fan Page

10. “Revealing the People Defining Social Networks,” (PR 2.0 Blog)

11. “How One Association Uses Social Media as an Information Distribution Tool to Their Members,” (Branding and Marketing Blog)

12. “Facebook Fan Page Best Practices,” (Livingston Buzz)

13. “Ten Things Social Media Can’t Do,” (Advertising Age)

See ya next week for Introduction to Twitter for Associations!