Barilla Pasta: Decidedly Not Marketing to the LBGT Community

Many Costa Concordia scale disasters for brands are not of their own making.  But the most recent large-scale brand miscommunication came from Barilla Pasta’s CEO himself.  In an Italian radio interview, Barilla Pasta Chairman Guido Barilla stated that, “I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect, but because we don’t agree with them,” adding, “Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role,” and opined that if gays “like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta. If they don’t like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

While it’s possible to argue that Barilla Pasta made a corporate decision not to pursue the LGBT market segment as did (see separate post), the comment added an insulting and discriminatory tone to what should have been a dry, detached and professional  The backlash began immediately thereafter, in both the press and online.  Posted on Barilla’s English/US page, US Twitter and Facebook pages are hundreds of comments condemning Barilla’s statement.  Mentions of boycotting the product are prominent.

September 26, 2013  Sue London ‏@cmdrsue  @geekwithsoul @BarillaUS –  “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” ~ Warren Buffett

September 26, 2013  Max Handelsman ‏@MaxH42 – “gays…can go an eat another brand” says @Barilla CEO; well, so can my family and I, @BarillaUs  #boycottbarilla

September 26, 2013  Amanda Katz ‏@katzish – Wait a minute, Barilla is actually *instructing* gay people to go eat another brand? What is this, an auto-boycott?

September 26, 2013  Rob Ryan – You have no idea how irresponsibly your “leader” spoke today. You will never shake this. #boycottbarilla

September 26, 2013  George Briggs  – Screw you, Barilla. If we’re not good enough, in your eyes, to adopt, then we’re not good enough to eat your pasta. Pasta is a dime a dozen. You’ll easily be replaced in my household

A pair of tweeted apologies appeared on both Barilla’s main twitter page and another on the Barilla US twitter page both posted the same day, September 26th.  A rough translation from the original Italian using Google Translate shows a tweet allegedly from Guido Barilla:

September 26, 2013  I apologize very much for having offended the sensibilities of many. I have the deepest # respect for all # people without distinction. Guido # Barilla

Barilla US’s Facebook page carried a more straightforward, if unattributed, apology, as did their twitter feed.

September 26, 2013  While we cannot undo words that have been said, we can apologize. To all of those that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.

Reactions from online constituents ran the spectrum from disbelief to condemnation.

September 26, 2013  Tom Brennan ‏@Brennanator – @stiricide @BarillaUS Yeah, a corporation can pretty easily undo words  “we were wrong & we take it back. We were wrong for being hateful”

September 26, 2013  David De Maria I’m Italian, I’m gay, I’m married legally to a man, I have three adopted children. I had Barilla pasta for dinner last night. Today, tomorrow and forever more I will choose another brand of pasta. Good bye Barilla! You lose!!!

September 26, 2013  Tori ‏@Slayingallhoes – @BarillaUS watch your sales drop like crazy. Lol idiots using homophobia in 2013 get shut down quicker than #sweetcupcakes on Oregon. Lol

September 26, 2013  Floraldisney – oh, fuck off. saying “I’m sorry you were offended” isn’t an apology.

September 26, 2013  Ericasays – see, i think saying, “i’m sorry IF you were offended” is way more insulting than saying “i’m sorry i offended you”. at least the latter is acknowledging the insult, as opposed to being like, you took offense to what i said? tough titties.

September 26, 2013  Floraldisney – I guess so, but it’s still a half assed apology. for it to be real they need to actually do something to make it up as well.

Guido Barillo’s opinions apparently reflect a larger anti-gay sentiment in Italy.  Parallel comparisons are made with the anti-gay practices and policies also found in Russia.  However, anti-gay sentiment and practices are declining in Western Europe, along with North and South America.  Even so, discussion and argument move forward with opinions coming from those who support LBGT rights being opposed by others who express support for Barilla.  The spectrum of this opposition range from those who support Mr. Barilla’s right to free speech to others who express a more homophobic point of view.

September 26, 2013  Brian Mouland – Has anyone figured out that Barilla probably sells three or four more times more pasta to families than it does to gays. Thus why offend your primary market  by putting homosexuals in commercials. This policy makes perfect sense no wonder the leftie looners can’t grasp it

September 26, 2013  FrankyCrisp – The lesson here is that if a consumer product doesn’t feature gays and their lifestyle in its advertising, it is a logical conclusion that the product and/or its manufacturer is anti-gay and must be removed from society. Gays seem to be less tolerant of others beliefs while they try and legitimize their perversions of family life.

September 28, 2013  He never said “he would never consider showing anyone gay in an advert”….that is just what you wanted to hear. What I heard was that he advertises to “people”…not by targeted ad towards gays, blacks, asians, affluent people, Italians, music lovers, etc. He was trying to avoid exactly what you infer that he feels…bias.

September 28, 2013  vonrall – Barilla has made a great daring PR move . This is a smart guy and would not make a remark like this without thinking of the result for his business. While he may lose some buyers for a while (until it blows over, not too far in the future) he stands to gain far more. Now his brand is set aside with PR you couldn’t buy. Barrilla pasta is sold world wide , so in areas where Gays are not so popular (Muslim counties, Italy, Russia, etc) sales will probably take an uptick. Chick-A fil made out fine with huge free PR, ultimately the LG community does not have enough buying power to damage really big companies , it’s mostly small chains and mom and pop businesses they can damage if they are in a urban area.

September 27th saw Guido Barilla appear in two YouTube videos, one on the regular Barilla Channel in Italian, the other posted by BarillaUS.

Both videos were an effort at damage control for the brand.  The English version contained an apology of the sort that could only be written by a committee of corporate lawyers. Clearly, the apologies were spoken by the head of a corporation that suddenly found itself embattled from all over the world, and all at once. But while the Italian YouTube Barilla Channel left the Comments function on, the US site disabled comments.  But feedback was forthcoming regardless.

September 30, 2013  Michael Crumpton – I’ll bet he wishes he just kept his mouth shut in the first place. Even if he totally reverses his stance, the damage has been done, and will likely remain for years. I wonder how many millions this cost his company.

September 28, 2013  Sharon Hayakawa  Sounds like he is losing money and realizes it’s actually a serious offense to say the things he said. Unfortunate for him that he said what he said, because there’s no do-overs when it comes to making that statement. I am not gay, bi, or other, but friends and family members are. I do not have a reason to accept that his comment, or apology, as it seems very insincere, and comes too late.

A handful of bilingual constituents suggest that there were differences in the texts between the Italian and English versions of Guido Barilla’s YouTube apologies. However, lacking a reliable translation in the data, this claim could not be substantiated.

September 27, 2013  Alessio De Giorgi  Why you apologize only on the us market and not in the European and your own Italian market? I don’t believe you.

With the apology, came a slight uptick in the number of posts defending Barilla the brand, and in most cases, Guido Barilla’s original comments.  Many constituents see the boycott as an attack on the company by homosexuals who will use anything to further their agenda.

September 27, 2013  John Williams  No need for any apology to an insensitive group that refuses to accept the fact that some people do not approve of their choice of lifestyle and then that same group DISCRIMINATES against those that have a different view. Mr. Barilla has EVERY right to speak his own mind and express his own opinion, especially as the OWNER of the company. I am sick of having opposing OPINIONS and VIEWS rammed down my throat. Whether I approve of the gay lifestyle is of no import – just as their opinion of MY choice of a heterosexual life style has NO meaning to me. I will most definitely go out of my way to SUPPORT Barilla and use no other pasta products from now on. Interesting how DIVERSITY only applies to force their agenda on the rest of us (vast majority).

September 28, 2013  steve larson  I believe Mr. Barrila’s remarks could have been phrased in a more courteous manner, but Mr. Barilla is entitled to his feelings, to his opinion and to his personal views, as is everyone else.  I support traditional family roles as honoring God and I believe that the traditional family is worthy of support. I will choose to honor those who honor God with my purchasing dollars.  Barilla has done nothing wrong in choosing to pursue traditional family roles in it’s advertising.  Barilla, you’re in; Bertolli, you’re out.

Comments supporting Barilla from September 27th onward contain elements of social, religious and political conservancy, anti-gay bias, or express the idea that Guido Barilla’s opinions are protected by his right to Freedom of Speech, which is a protection often cited by the right wing of the United States political system.

It is any corporation’s right to decide whether or not to reach a particular segment of the pasta buying public.  But in choosing to ignore or bypass one group in particular, it is still incumbent on brand stewards to act diplomatically to all potential customers, whether they’re engaged with the brand or not.  Like the ill-fated luxury cruise liner Costa Concordia, Guido Barilla’s comments have put the otherwise staid Barilla brand onto the rocks of public opinion.  The apparent thoughtlessness of Guido Barilla’s original comment has done major damage to the brand in both the US and abroad.  However, the recent uptick in the number of posts defending the Barilla executive has provided significant pushback against the initial tide that intends to boycott the brand.

While it is still too soon to make a final determination as to the outcome of this controversy, history has shown that brands in difficult positions often opt to engage those groups arrayed against it and come to embrace one or more of the opposition’s points of view as its own.  No doubt, Barilla will do much of that in the days and weeks to come.  Whether it means that we will see gays appearing in Barilla’s advertising and brand communications remains to be seen.  Fortunately for us, the online constituencies will let us know by dint of their online conversations.  We can see it happen virtually as it happens, online.

Coca Cola and the Politics of Coming Together

Coca Cola is one of the world’s most iconic brands.  It’s also a leading brand in a category under the microscope for being a major contributor to our population’s obesity problem.  With soft drinks in general banned in schools across the country and even having their serving sizes regulated in New York City, the category has been heavily criticized for using high fructose corn syrup.  HFCS is digested differently than cane sugar resulting in its conversion to fat rather than being eliminated.   This past Monday, Coke decided to do something about the obesity issue; they embraced it by launching a two minute commercial, Coming Together, created by politically oriented branding company Citizen2 and BrightHouse .

The commercial rolled out online on Monday, January 14, 2013, with block media buys running on cable’s MSNBC, CNN and FOX News.

While the commercial has grabbed the headlines, the ad is supported by a lesser-known website, TOGETHER FOR GOOD

Coke’s premise behind the commercial and website is twofold. The first is summed up in the commercial’s voice over, which tells us that all calories count, no matter from where they come, including Coca Cola.  Second, that Coca Cola wants to be a part of the conversation about obesity and the role sugary drinks play in the growing problem.  Part of that conversation, from Coke’s perspective, involves pointing out that they offer 180 products that have low or no calories out of their portfolio of over 650 beverages.

Ad industry online reaction to Coming Together was swift and for the most part, positive.

 January 14, 2013  Smart because they’re trying to control the conversation, not enter it. Sugar is the biggest problem with soft drinks, not calories. 

 January 15, 2013  The idea comes from R.H. Macy in the movie Miracle on 34th Street, “In being known as the helpful store (cola) we will sell more (drinks) than ever!

 January 15, 2013  Addressing the issue head on is smart. Well-conceived, well-reasoned spot. Coke would rather be a leader and a participant in the discussion instead of a handy piñata.

 However, there were a few observations from the professional community about the core issue in the argument about sugary drinks; the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

 January 15, 2013  if they really cared then why are they still putting High Fructose Corn Syrp in the beverages

 January 15, 2013  Sugary drink or drinks with artificial sweetners are slowly going to decline over the years. In the day of obesity, Whole Foods Market, chronic diseases, etc. there is little room for non-nutritious foods. GMOs, HFCS, Aspartame, etc. are going to get critical reviews by consumers and they will ultimately vote with their dollars.

 Consumers in online communities quickly fell into three main camps.  The first are the defenders of Coca Cola.  Conversations online show that they tend to argue for consumers to exercise self-control instead of imposing any sort of government regulation on the product or its consumption.

 January 15, 2013  Not sure why the vendors like Coke are being targeted. Last time I checked they didn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head and forced them to buy their products. Personal choice people. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS. You made yourself fat.

 January 15, 2013  RinkyDink965_Ehhhh, I think they’ve done a good thing putting out a message that at least they have certain options when it comes to low-calorie options. What people drink is up to them, ultimately, isn’t it? If you know something is bad for you, but drink it anyway, who’s fault is it? The same applies to anything, really. All it takes is a modicum of common sense and responsibility for what you allow into your own body.

 January 15, 2013  I am tired of people and the government trying to tell me what I should and should not eat. I will eat and drink whatever the hell I want to, it is not the governments business what or how much I eat or drink. The government needs to keep its nose out of our lives.

 January 15, 2013  Christianrocker1990_Yes, blame Coke. Throw personal responsibility to the wind and blame a conglomerate, that will help you lose weight.  Sarcasm aside, do you know how stupid that sounds?

 High Fructose Corn Syrup is the key issue discussed by the second camp.  Coke’s use of the sweetener in the US is compared in conversations to Cokes bottled in Mexico and Canada, where cane sugar is used by statue.  Costco brought the issue to wider public scrutiny by offering Coca Cola bottled in Mexico, using cane sugar, to US consumers.

 January 15, 2013  Bring back real sugar cokes.. They have it in every other country but here we get HFCS.. i think HFCS is one of the main reasons for obesity in this country…

 January 15, 2013  Roger Kulp_Coca-Cola in the last 25 years is not what it was in the 100 years before then.Both Aspartame and HFCS cause obesity,and other medical problems,maybe not cancer like saccharine or cyclamates,but neither are healthy.A couple of articles to Google”Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings” “Diet Sodas Linked to Increased Obesity, Diabetes” That ought to be enough to get started. If you are not diabetic or obese,seek out premium cane sugar sodas.

 January 15, 2013  F. Tomcsik_Unconfirmed sources have revealed that Mexico realized the dangers of Hydrogenated Fructose in Coca Cola and reverted back to using real sugar in Coke.Hi Fructose Corn Syrup, and Glucose Syrup, is the same thing, and can kill you over time. Hi Fructose Corn Syrup is hydrogenated and cannot be absorbed into the blood stream through the intestines. It must be processed through the pancreas and the liver. Over time will develop obesity, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Hard stick margarine is also hydrogenated.

 January 15, 2013  Delores Kirkwood_wesmess09. YES YOU CAN BLAME COKE – and other companies that use high fructose corn syrup in their products (most proccessed foods). HFCS has been proven to be a major cause of obesity., heart disease and stroke in America and for more than a decade the Cardiology Dept. of the Univ. of WA Medical School has been trying to get the FDA to get it out of our food. Why haven’t they? Is the FDA being bought also? BTW, regular corn syrup is fine. HFCS is an altered sweetening agent.

 January 15, 2013  germanjulian_Hey Cola people, you need to read up on sugar and once you realize that High Fructose Corn Syrup makes you fatter faster then glucose for the same sweetness factor you can just change the recipe..

 The third camp sees the brand communication as more of a public relations effort than an effort at true dialog.  Coke’s outreach is often met with cynical disbelief.  Comments are by turns derisive and dismissive of the marketer’s message.

 January 14, 2013  “We’ve added the calorie content of all the beverages on the front, to help make it even easier for people to make informed decisions.” Bullshit. That was a requirement from the Affordable Care Act, the same clause that requires chain restaurants to have the calorie information shown on their menus. They didn’t have a choice in the matter.

 January 15, 2013  P0rtilla_You know I actually though to myself for a second ”wow, I wonder if such a huge company like Coca-Cola is actually doing some kind of non-profit movement to actually help society”, right about then was when she said ”we have 180 products with less than blah blah blah”, oh I was so wrong.

 January 15, 2013  wesmess09_I don’t blame Coca-Cola for the obesity problem in the US, I blame them for this ad, which is averting attention towards a few of the healthier options they now offer and away from the harm that is done in using high amounts of fructose to flavor our beverages. Counting calories is not the problem, it’s about what nutrients (or lack of nutrient) we take in when consuming their product. They know that using fructose while a wise business move is the problem, and they know they are misleading us.

 There are a few in this third camp who perceive the point to the public relations aspect of the campaign.  Even though they are unaware of the unique background and talents of one of Coming Together’s creators, Citizen2 .

 January 15, 2013  Jay Killeen_@clayton9m You hit the nail on the head. “Eexcept young children”. We were all young once. Coca-Cola’s strategy for a long time has been to appeal to children and teens. This is why Santa wears Red and White. People get addicted to this stuff. That’s why Coca-Cola originally started with cocaine in their mixture. The contention is, why only now have Coca-Cola decided to take some responsibility to bring this issue to the public, to bring people together. It is damage control. A storm is brewing

 In some published accounts, Health Advocates see the campaign as an attempt to head off the creation of policies aimed at regulating or reducing public consumption of sugary drinks, which would include Coke.   Citzen2, one of the campaign’s creators, is an agency designed to handle brands and clients that require both brand messaging and the kind of public affairs expertise aimed reaching either state or Washington insiders.  It’s not surprising then to find that the agency is a subsidiary of Purple Strategies, a Washington DC political communications and public affairs company.  This is interesting in that it indicates that Coke’s reasons behind wanting to “get involved in the conversation” might be less consumer oriented and more directed toward influencing public opinion in advance of regulatory action at either the state or congressional level.  If this is true, then we might be able to judge the campaign’s success by how often we hear Coke’s phrase from the commercial, “energy balance”, used in the coming debate.

Jaguar Rebuilds both Brand and Product Lineup

Jaguar Cars has quietly taken steps to control its brand communications and messaging at exactly the same time it’s introducing a new technological feature into their luxury car lineup.

Jaguar Instinctive All Wheel Drive is being marketed in the US more heavily to coincide with the opening of the LA Auto Show on November 28, 2012. But it’s a subtle move for the brand, as Jaguar is coming late to market in offering an All Wheel Drive (AWD) system.  VP-Brand Development for JaguarUSA David Pryor acknowledges that luxury buyers want it all when it comes to having the confidence that their car can take them anywhere, at any time.  That confidence an AWD system imparts to a luxury car driver is something that Audi,  BMW and Mercedes-Benz have each offered for many years.

Paralleling the increase in technological content of its products, Jaguar Land Rover recently created its own in-house agency to relaunch the brand using print, digital and social advertising.  Based in London, UK and with offices in Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Shanghai, Spark 44 took over creative duties from Euro RSCG in late 2011. The agency is led by former Porsche head of Sales and Marketing, Dr. Hans Riedel.  Their first effort for their sole client saw the Alive campaign break in the US in March of 2012.

Executed as a :30 TV commercial and as a :45 web video, How Alive Are You?, spearheaded the new agency’s effort to rebrand and reposition Jaguar cars to restore its iconic status.  This coincided with a Twitter campaign tagged #FeelAlive, along with a driving experience road show of the same name.

The impact  of the Alive campaign on conversations online was sparse, but not for lack of trying.

They might have done better not wasting 3/’4 of the time before they even showed the car, but that’s what you get when you let the ad agency “artistes” indulge themselves. Personally, I think positioning a car as “alive” is ridiculous and not likely to get anyone to spend $50K or more to buy it.  February 29, 2012

 Jags are awesome! Love the new design and finally they have the technology. A few years back they didn’t have anything in their cars. Now they are good. Nicely equipped with great engines.  February 28, 2012

 I cant wait for the AWD versions.  February 28, 2012

 The rebranding effort made in the video centered on creating an emotional connection with the viewer, causing him to fall in love with the brand.  Charged with having to accomplish the two monumental tasks of rebranding and repositioning, the work was regarded by some brand communications professionals as either too subtle or as unfocused.

Undaunted, Spark 44 produced new elements of the Alive campaign specifically aimed at the introduction of AWD to the product line.  Interestingly, while the video elements continue to be aspirational and emotionally involving, Spark 44 tasked Twitter with moving the technical product data  from the brand to the prospect.

On the YouTube pages where they’ve been posted since November 18th, It Plays Well and More Alive-Extended have yet to gain any comments as of this writing.  However, there are some conversations about the television campaign.

I can count the number of Jaguar television spots I’ve seen in the last 5 years on one hand (hint: zero). In the last 3 days, I’ve seen close to a dozen. All of which revolve around the AWD option for the XJ and XF cars.  AWD might not be a necessary option, but the perception sure has given Jaguar North America the green light to market this thing. I hope it works. I just want Jaguar to succeed.  November 7, 2012

 What few online conversations there are about the campaign appear to indicate that the overall brand communication strategy laid out by David Pryor is working; keep the emphasis of the videos on rebuilding the brand’s mystique without focusing on either technology or product attributes beyond mentioning the AWD system.

The Twitter feed shows a moderately higher level of brand engagement by online constituents.

@LextonRaleigh  “@JaguarUSA: RT if you love the new Jaguar #XFRS ” I love it! Even better than the convertible. #FeelAlive  November 28, 2012

@JaguarCarsMENA  Watch the #FTYPE trailer of #DESIRE here: … #feelalive  November 28, 2012

Jaguar USA ‏@JaguarUSA  One reason to look forward to winter? The Jaguar Instinctive All Wheel Drive™ for the XJ and XF.  September 28, 2012

✗Lil Owen © ‏@YMCMB_owen  @JaguarUSA Pretty Advanced  October 4, 2012

 Responses from prospective customers reveal that those who do respond to tweets are highly engaged with the Jaguar brand, and often with one of its products.

Typically one sees more conversations surrounding an iconic brand such as Jaguar.  But that’s not the case for the Alive campaign.  Why that is so can only be a matter of speculation, lacking the kind of data and metrics available to Mr. Pryor and Spark 44.  However, prior experience with other brands in a similar situation has revealed that while most 45 year old and over folks consume digital media at an increasing rate, relatively few generate responses online.  That might possibly be the case for Jaguar’s audience, and the reason for their relative silence online.

Jaguar claims that the Alive campaign has succeeded in changing perceptions in the target audience.  The marketer also claims success in creating the space for online participants to make the leap and become ambassadors for the brand.  Jaguar Land Rover and JaguarUSA have seen an increase in the number of cars sold here in the US, a development they’ve attributed to the new campaign.  But the overall volume of cars of cars sold is relatively low compared to other automakers; 1,022 units sold nationwide for February, 2012.

If Jaguar is to survive in the US market, those numbers will have to rise overall as time goes by.  But Spark 44 is still in the throes of a Herculean task; rebranding a legendary company in a highly competitive vertical while simultaneously rolling out messaging in support of a new product feature long missing from the lineup.  Not so easy to do under the best of circumstances, let alone the current economic climate.  But Jaguar’s own history can only help that effort.  It remains to be seen how Spark 44 will build on that legacy.

Microsoft’s Windows 8. Sliding Towards Fast and Fun.

Microsoft’s latest campaign rolling out the Windows 8 OS has resulted in TV, print & web ads here in the US, often being noted for looking, sounding & feeling like rival Apple’s ads.  However, in the UK, there is one live event being run right now in support of the brand that is gaining some attention.

To illustrate the Fast and Fun tagline for Windows 8, the brand set up a carnival-type slide in the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.   The big, purple slide was offered to all as a fast and fun alternative to using the stairs.

Souvenir photos were taken of riders, who could also tweet their pictures using the #fastandfun hashtag to be entered into a contest for prizes.  November 2, 2012

The idea for the slide being both physically and digitally interactive and engaging is a good one.  Its fit with the Microsoft brand however left something to be desired.  Online conversations veered between pleasantly amused and snarky.

Not quite sure it’s the best marketing strategy to say how fast and fluidly Windows 8 can take you downhill. Going uphill quickly…that’s the message they should send  November 5, 2012

Yay! A giant slide! I want to upgrade just because of the giant slide!  November 6, 2012

There hasn’t been a repeat of the slide mentioned since the larger campaign rolled out.  Pity.  It’s a unique approach that’s worthy of greater consideration.

On the other hand, Microsoft and US marketing partner Crispin Porter & Bogusky  have had their hands full since the preview videos for Windows 8 debuted in mid October.

Some comments focus on Microsoft’s new-found cool factor, which is also compared to Apple’s efforts.

Originally Posted by Skripka  That TV commercial does a GREAT job demonstrating the capabilities and bling and usability targeted for the 8 years old pictured playing Angy Brids and using MS Paint….how about showing us people who use a computer for actual work, and not just dicking around, why they should poney up?

People who use desktops for work aren’t going to ‘pony up’ regardless, 98% of Windows users get Windows with a new PC. It’s the tablet market MS should be advertising too, and people who use tablets instead of PCs, which I think this commercial does. The commercial itself, seems no better or worse than most others, imo.  October 14, 2012

They’ve been lapped twice and think they can catch up with a couple of well-placed beats. So sad.  November 9, 2012

Music: Eagles of death metal – I only want you  October 30, 2012

Wouldn’t it be great if we could really make a video like this on Windows 8? :)  November 13, 2012

Its better than any Apple ad I have seen in awhile, so shut your mouth domo. I have used this product before and know what it is like. I think it is a very good product, I don’t need you to try to tell me that I can’t like something because of the way it was advertised.  October 21, 2012

The online comments merge sentiments about the advertising work with constituent perceptions about the actual product.  For most, the advertising work is merely part and parcel of the entire Windows 8 product experience.  Many online constituents don’t realize that Windows 8 is really designed for computing devices with touch screens, such as tablets.  Microsoft’s new Surface tablet is the standard bearer for Windows 8 for the time being.

Many Microsoft partisans bemoan the reorientation of the brand’s voice in the direction of Apple’s wave of coolness.  They feel that PC’s are the ultimate work and productivity tool. While Apple’s products are toys for kids.  This point of view ignores the brand’s big bet on cloud computing as well as touch screen devices.  With Windows 8, the brand is committing itself to these two technologies to carry it into the next phase of personal computing.  Time will tell whether Windows users follow the brand to that new horizon.

LG, So Real it’s Scary

Questionable taste and faked events are nothing new online.  But you seldom see both qualities in a brand communication from a major electronics maker.

Launched October 19th by Dutch agency SuperHeroes , LG’s new online video for their IPS monitors was designed to emphasize the lifelike colors the new monitors can render.  SuperHeroes’ proof comes in the form of a prank on unsuspecting elevator riders.    The elevator’s floor, seen in the video to be made up of 9 IPS monitors, runs an animation simulating the floor falling away underfoot to expose the shaft beneath.   The viewers are supposed to take glee in their reactions of surprise and one might assume, terror.

But there aren’t any reactions of terror.  Or even real surprise.  Which is a surprise in itself.   Moreover, the reactions expressed online were mixed.  And split.

While initial reactions online liked the idea for the piece, they quickly became mixed with negative reactions.

Lol that made my day, pure class  October 22, 2012

 0963saihttam – Whelp…looks like I’m taking the stairs at work tomorrow…and the next day…and forever…  October 24, 2012

 skycibul – I would seriously have a fucking heart attack  October 24, 2012

 Reactions from digital and advertising professionals tended toward the negative.  For many, the work recalled the recent tragedy at the Y&R office in Midtown Manhattan.  Given that SuperHeores has a Brooklyn office, one would think SuperHeroes might have given some thought about the reactions of their Madison Avenue colleagues.

I work in Midtown: too soon.  October 24, 2012

my wife works at Y&R…  October 24, 2012

totally uncool and insensitive  October 24, 2012

I agree with Texas. AFter that terrible tragedy at Y&R, a spot about scaring people in an elevator seems insensitive. There must be another million ways to show the life-like qualities of the TV monitor.  October 24, 2012

 Digital and Advertising professionals identified the artifacts and icons in the work that point to the work being staged and manipulated in post-production.

They’re actors. If you watch closely, you can tell the floor was green screened. There’s a green glow on the hand railing and doors. Also, the angle changes from camera to camera. If they’d actually done it as a stunt, there would only be one point of perspective showing on the monitors.  October 22, 2012

i think it was a staged event… few/no clients would have taken the risk of a heart attack and no agency would have protected them… and the age group and styling suggests agendy/client actors… no one shit…  October 24, 2012

 plus you can see the green screen reflecting up on the hand rail (pointed out in a few places on the interweb…)  October 24, 2012

This whole thing is fake. They used a green screen on the floor of the elevator. You can see the green reflecting in the shots. Pay close attention to the handrails at 1:26. The victims are just actors. Nice try LG.  October 24, 2012

 Initially the split between those who believed the piece was real and those who spotted it as a fake was small.   Tellingly, there were early and numerous online reactions from non-professionals that raised the issue of the video’s authenticity.

How can this be true, it seems to be view dependant. At 01:04 it looks good from the camera point of view… I doubt the 2 guys would see something nice from there point of view. If this is a viral, or a commercial, with actors, rather than a hidden camera kind of joke, that should be mentionned in the description. Otherwise… the idea is cool.  October 22, 2012

 HlynurS – If you understood that the image on the monitors are 2D then you’d understand that the perspective would be off unless you would stand in the perfect spot. If you can’t understand that then I can’t help you.  October 24, 2012

 ElBomBuChannel – It’s fake because the corner camara couldn’t show the image in the floor with perspective as it’s being shown!  i  October 25, 2012

 miketangyew – It is fake you can see the green reflecting on the walls also. Looks like LG got lieds to. So real it’s fake.  October 25, 2012

 airolucas – If you look closely in 1:26 you can see the green screen on the reflection of the bar so its fake  October 25, 2012

But the cries of fakery increased quickly, bringing the number of indictments to equal or exceed the positive comments within a day or two of posting on YouTube.  The publicity value however is very large indeed, with so many online constituents talking about the work.  Those views and comments represent a very large quantity of engagement (12 million on YouTube, as of 10/29), absent any analysis of whether those individual conversations fall into the positive, negative or neutral categories.

In the end, LG is being called out for committing fraud by the majority of the online community.  However, the online backlash is still relatively small.

whitebeam – Just when Nokia got caught for lying in their ads, you do this? Not smart LG, not smart.  October 25, 2012

 It seems that LG, like many marketers, is more concerned with the quantity of brand engagement and not its quality.  That point of view corresponds with the idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.  Which is fine, right up to the point someone at LG utters the phrase “damage control”.  At that moment, it will be too late.  But will that moment ever come for LG?

Brad Pitt’s Controversial Ads for Chanel No. 5

When Saturday Night Lives’ Taran Killam parodied Chanel No. 5 commercials starring Brad Pitt, we left meme behind and entered the realm of potential train wreck (send-ups seen on Hulu).  While any Chanel commercial is going to be the subject of much discussion, the brand might not like what’s being discussed this time around.  Worse, the online discussions don’t dwell so much on the ground breaking (for Chanel) first of having a male spokesperson, as what that spokesperson is seen doing.  Or, not doing.

Typically, Chanel’s brand communications are events in themselves.  The brand’s cachet is built in part around featuring work made by auteurs with onscreen celebrities.  Past films are archived as part of Chanel’s history – another key component of the brand’s image.  Director Baz Luhrmann’s work with Nicole Kidman in 2004, along with  French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s  2009 work with  Audrey Tautou,  are featured on Inside Chanel ,  which embodies part of the Chanel brand’s historical component.  The site has room for the work featuring Mr. Pitt to be listed.

But the films directed by acclaimed British director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) don’t yet occupy the space left for them on that site.

Indeed, with the general and trade press criticizing the work here in the US, Joe Wright’s name isn’t featured anywhere but the blogs  and, with the former giving the source of the films’ directorial credit to Chanel itself.  Confirmation came on October 17th, the UK newspaper The Guardian mentioned Mr. Wright’s helming the Chanel spots in an article about his directorial debut in the London Theater with the play A Season in the Congo .

Prior to the Saturday Night Live broadcast on October 20th, there was plenty of evidence that the new Chanel work was in trouble.  Conversations from marketing professionals in the US either held lukewarm praise or panned the work.

October 15, 2012  “This video makes me cringe. Brad Pitt you suck.” Well, there’s THAT from YouTube Nation.

 October 17, 2012  I don’t think this ad is any more “total nonsense” than other CHANEL N°5 ads featuring Catherine Deneuve, Nicole Kidman… (they will probably come up if you watch this one on YouTube). It’s an extension of the CHANEL oeuvre.

  October 17, 2012  So you’re OK with the ad because… Brad Pitt is cute? How about we all grow up and acknowledge that this is the biggest load of pretentious emptiness of the decade, and then we might start making some great ads

One post seems prescient in light of SNL what aired later that night.

October 20, 2012 I’m a student in a digital marketing class and I wrote a post about this commercial over at my blog I think it’s pretty interesting that Chanel has a male spokesman but it seemed a little bit like an SNL spoof rather than a commercial for a luxurious brand. On the plus side, it’s definitely given the campaign a lot of publicity.

The general public was equally as baffled by the work prior to October 20th.  And in some cases, equally as harsh.

October 17, 2012  When we first heard that Chanel had tapped Brad Pitt to be the first male face of its signature No. 5 fragrance, we raised an eyebrow. Could the scruffy — and recently ponytailed– 48-year-old actor really compete with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Hutton to shill the classic women’s scent?  After a new commercial launched this weekend, we’re still not so sure.  Chanel is touting the Pitt campaign as “the perspective of a man on the most feminine fragrance of all time.” The company previously released a few teaser videos of the actor posing odd questions to the viewer, including “Do you feel lucky?” and “Are you going somewhere?” Ugh, whatever, Brad.  In the commercial just released, Pitt, who reportedly nabbed $7 million for the gig, looks more like he wandered out of a dive bar in Brooklyn than the chiseled stud we saw years ago. “The world turns and we turn with it,” he muses in black and white, “but wherever I go; there you are.”  If you think it’s all a little cheesy, well, you’re in good company. “TRY NOT TO LAUGH WHEN YOU WATCH THIS!” howls one commenter on the YouTube version. “Bad hair, bad style, wtf?? do i see a goatee??? Horrible taste… and btw, why use an [American] to sell a French product?” writes another.  But LOL-worthy lines aside, Brad’s good looks are still working their magic on at least one charmed lady. Writes one commenter:“The things he says makes no sense whatsoever.  But his eyes. OMG.”

 October 15, 2012  The most amount paid to an actor for 31 seconds of work? He got paid some crazy amount. This looks like an audition tape for a soap opera or something. :P

 October 15, 2012  such a shame. i usually rely on chanel ads to be completely fantastical beautiful amazing. a la

 October 17, 2012  Oh GreyMan, but it does get worse for Chanel. Something is messed up when major department stores are downsizing their Chanel selections to half & pulling Coco completely.  Our local Macy’s stores, they got rid of half the Chanel & relocated the selection. They also have no intentions on getting the Coco Noir. Thierry Mugler bought out contracts on the premier displays, slapped in EDPs & EDTs of the orginials. Put a huge dent in their stock in less then a month, while the Chanel struggles to move.  I am afraid of what the fragrance industry is going to look like in the future.

The last post is most telling.  Looking at the weight of negative posts online, the ads were perceived as  hurting the brand even before October 20th.  The ads achieved meme status by drawing over 2 million hits on YouTube by SNL’s airdate, and had already spawned a series of knock-off ads.  One of the first being for St. John’s hospital in the UK, posted October 15th.

But all is not lost for Chanel’s No. 5.  It must be remembered that Luhrmann’s film with Nicole Kidman drew a similar amount of fire from critics in 2004.

October 16, 2012  “Nicole Kidman’s career never fully recovered from her own Chanel advert in 2004”  Piffle.  Kidman has had leading roles in 19 films since 2004 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress (‘Rabbit Hole,’ 2010) and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (‘Hemingway and Gelhorn,’ 2010).  For ‘Rabbit Hole’ alone she was nominated for fifteen acting awards — including the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.  She currently has four films either in production or post-production — including the starring role in ‘Grace of Monaco.’  “Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Rosamund Pike, Amy Adams, January Jones and Elizabeth Banks were among those under consideration to play Grace Kelly.”  BTW, it was in 2004 that Kidman was honoured as a ‘Citizen of the World’ by the United Nations.

The weight of negative comments is overwhelming in the hours following the Saturday Night Live broadcast.  However, even after SNL’s parody, the Brad Pitt films garnered some support.

October 24, 2012  brilliant, magnificent, Brad Pitt was brave to do this pub and make people think and talk…talk..and talk.  the mind need something abstract, deep and unusual to be remember. Chanel and Pitt have achieved the objective, Touch any person with some words.  The goal of Publicity is to provoke a reaction without violence or sex. They have put all world talking about this Pub. Young and old, women or man, any person is talking about the mean and the goal with this Ad.  It´s done. Inevitable

October 23, 2012  You are absolutely right…having this commercial being so far from “normal” is what makes it special. In fact I argue that if a man, who so many women think is a sex symbol, is promoting Chanel No. 5, that that in itself is a reason for a woman to buy it.

Perhaps exhibiting confidence in their own work in spite of the media and online storm in the US, Chanel embraced the work by posting it on their google+ site on October 22nd.

October 23, 2012  Odd. I love Brad Pitt. I love Chanel. Not necessarily No. 5. Maybe that’s why they’re paying him? But I’d rather see him running on a beach or something. Not sure either way of representing a man would make me want to buy perfume. There’s got to be more to this than meets the eye…

 October 24, 2012  This is awesome!

While there are no guarantees in this life, moving forward with such an announcement online represents some level of commitment to the work by the marketer.  Even if it’s only in front of the nearly 6,000 folks who’ve already subscribed to Chanel’s feed.

In the end, Chanel has a history of commissioning brand films that are essentially ethereal; containing little by way of narrative in the conventional sense.  While Joe Wright’s work with Mr. Pitt runs counter to his lush, cinematic approach to his feature films, it is work that’s had to have run through the gamut of approvals at Chanel; a process  which ends with Creative Director and Head Designer Karl Lagerfeld’s ultimate approval.

Chanel will likely weather the storm of parody & initial disapproval and stick with the campaign.  The fact that the campaign is being discussed online to such a degree is proof that it’s having an impact.  Much of the howling online comes from individuals not likely ever to buy the product.  But then the internets give everyone a place to be a critic.

So does this blog.  Thoughts?

Expedia: Find Yours

Travelling is an act of transition.  A traveler moves not only between locations but between mindsets.  The change in mindset helps the traveler adjust to his destination’s landscape.

As we in marketing know, new ad campaigns are a sign of a brand in transition.  Designed to help the brand move from their previous tag, Where You Book Matters, online travel company Expedia debuted their new Find Yours tag in a campaign from new ad agency 180LA.  The campaign rolled out in July of this year, receiving upbeat reviews in the press.  One execution in particular, the online short film Find Your Understanding, has gained notice from both trade journals as well as its intended audience.

Directed in documentary style by Eliot Rausch of Über Content (company site) and aimed directly at the LBGT audience , Find Your Understanding allows us to listen to Artie Goldstein describe the transitions he made in coming to understand and accept his daughter Jill’s upcoming marriage to her companion Nikki Weiss.  Artie’s dialog about coming to terms with Jill’s decision unfolds as we’re watching footage lensed by Director of Photography Ed David of Artie’s travel from Atlanta to LA.  The pictures and voice-over complete the metaphor of transition; one each for Artie’s body and mind.

With the 3:19 video posted on Expedia’s YouTube site on October 2, 2012, the LBGT online constituency checked in quickly.  So, did Find your Understanding resonate with the LBGT niche market?

OK is it a gay wedding?  EDIT: SPOILER! YES! And a very sweet story.  October 3, 2012

Heh. I left out that detail on purpose. I figured the point of the ad is that it shouldn’t matter.  October 3, 2012

 I would have posted this first, but…  I had to get the tears out of my eyes first. (The house is dusty, that’s all.)  October 3, 2012

My house is dusty also  October 3, 2012

I actually teared up a bit…that was beautiful.  October 4, 2012

Mynnigon  I will be using Expedia from now on!  October 17, 2012

The short answer is: yes, it did.  The enthusiasm for Find Your Understanding from the LBGT community reflected well on the brand.  There were even some posts that expressed the ultimate form of brand loyalty, saying they’d use Expedia from now on.

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for the broader Find Yours campaign. While the Find Yours campaign relies on user generated content, it seems that Expedia’s own online contests designed to gather content for use in the campaign miss the mark.  One such contest attempted to gather stories about finding love abroad on the Vagabond3 travel blog (  While the many of the stories were interesting as well as on-topic, none of them involved the Expedia brand.  None of the storytellers mentioned having used Expedia for travelling to be with the people they love.  This points to a central disconnect in how the brand is perceived; online travel agents are ubiquitous.  The act of buying tickets online doesn’t leave much of an impression.  So, none are mentioned.

Broadly speaking, online travel agents don’t come in for much praise.  If the itinerary works out as planned, then Expedia is seen as having done its job.  Nothing more.  Usually, online conversations about travel sites involve questions about price, availability, or whether the site is appropriate to work with for the desired destination.

We travel internationally at least once a year, but I always buy our tickets or cash in awards directly with the airline.  This trip I found the best flight options on Expedia. There are multiple legs and 2 different airlines. I’m gun shy about buying them through Expedia. Should I be? Or am I being crazy?  September 8, 2012

 Though it’s seldom said openly, Expedia does have some online constituents who hold it in good regard.

I buy tickets on Expedia all the time. I’m looking for a flight right now. I’ve used them for over a decade. Happy Travels!  September 10, 2012

The General constituency does voice Expedia’s single biggest source for concern: customer service.

Well after spending over 4 hours on the phone with them, they still haven’t agreed to give me my money back.  I have dealt with airlines in the past and it hasn’t always been easy to get refunds but this is by far my worst experience. You would think that Expedia would put some of its money into staff and training.  All;I can think to do is to make a complaint to Consumer Affairs or the equivalent in the US.  May 17, 2012

Tellingly, the broader online constituency in social media seems not to have noticed the rest of Expedia’s new Find Yours campaign.  Instead, online mentions for Find Your Understanding seem to be the sum total of notice for the campaign.

 AriCohen Unbelievably moving commercial from @Expedia this actually makes me want to book a trip through them… #expediafindyours  October 17, 2012

cottalott Never really had feelings about Expedia one way or the other – til now – good job, dudes #ExpediaFindYours  October 18, 2012

Notice and accolades come from all over; heterosexual online constituents express their love of the video as do the LBGT target audience.  Apart from mentions for Find Your Understanding, there are no constituent mentions of either the other new advertising executions or tag line that were captured in the research for this post.

While it’s too soon to say definitively that the Find Yours campaign has failed in making an impression online, it is fair to say that the success of Find Your Understanding has come to stand for the broader campaign in social media conversations.  It’s an example of a brand communication transitioning beyond its niche market and becoming in effect the whole campaign.

How then should our traveler in transition, Expedia, work with this new feature in their social media landscape?