How the Winning Ads of Super Bowl Spent Nothing

Congratulations Viagra and the Taken Film Series

Two of the biggest winners of the Super Bowl weren’t playing on the field and didn’t spend $4 million dollars for an ad. They were the little blue pill, Viagra, which showed up in a Fiat commercial and the Taken film series featuring Liam Neeson who showed up in a Clash of Clans commercial. As of Thursday, the Clash of Clans video has 28 million+ views and the Fiat commercial has 8 million+ views. Not bad for two brands that most likely spent much less to be referenced in another brand’s $4 million dollar Super Bowl commercial.


If Only Budweiser Was Sold In Pet Stores 

While I enjoyed, as did most of the Super Bowl audience, the Budweiser commercial with the lost puppy who finds its way back home, I do question the use of animals as “triggers” for beer. In Jonah Berger’s book ‘Contagious‘, he discusses the use of triggers to make products or ideas contagious.

Triggers are basically sights or sounds that remind us of a brand. For example, the day Friday is a trigger for Rebecca Black’s song ‘Friday’, peanut butter is a trigger for jelly, and a cute lab puppy is a trigger for Budweiser. Other triggers for Budweiser are and have been Clydesdale horses, Dalmation dogs, frogs and Spuds MacKenzie. See a pattern here? They are all animals.

While commercials with animals get a lot of buzz, they aren’t the greatest trigger for a beer unless beer is sold in pet stores or in places where consumers would see these animal triggers. The best triggers to make a product or idea contagious are triggers that happen near where the product or idea is present or can be accessed quickly which is why the song Friday was a popular download on Fridays and peanut butter and jelly can usually be found in the same grocery aisle.

And so this is Christmas.


It’s begun. The two-plus month holiday we call Christmas. Screw Thanksgiving, it’s the time for getting and all the big stores are hawking their shiny new things to the masses. But if you dig a little deeper amongst the video waves of shill, you might just find some meaningful and poignant messages of sharing and giving and all the nice things we sometimes forget about.


When it comes marketing and advertising, Christmas season is my favorite time of year. There are two distinct roads brands take during this time of year. Most show off their products in a way that makes children scream, “I want that! I want that! I want that!” during every commercial break. And adults too are targets, with flashes of shiny jewelry and big-screen TVs catching their eyes.


But it’s the other road that I appreciate most. It’s the ads and videos and social media messages that are about sharing and caring and giving and loving that are most meaningful to me. It’s those marketing and advertising ideas that I feel have the most legs. I am more apt to share, tweet, like and talk about those with others. And so, without further ado, I’d like to share a couple good Christmas spots from this season so far and one from last season.


The first one is from John Lewis. It’s about a boy and his penguin Monty.

While I think it’s cute and a good story and will probably sell a bunch of penguin stuffed animals, it’s not as great as their Christmas spot last year about the bear and the hare.



The last spot is from Sainsbury’s and is a beautiful retelling of the Christmas truce between the British and Germans in WWI. It has a great message and is marvelously shot and filmed.



I do hope to see some American brands showcase some great messaging that I will want to share and talk about but so far of what I’ve seen, they have taken the other road. If you have seen any great Christmas/holiday season marketing or advertising, feel free to share in the comments section.


A very merry xmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear


-John Lennon

The Power of Barney




Barney's Best Manners; this was one of the Bar...
Barney’s Best Manners; this was one of the Barney & Friends videos to have never aired on TV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my daughter was two, she was a handful. I pretty much gave up on the whole idea of having a clean living room. My wife or I would pick up all of her toys and put them away.  Seconds later, as if by magic or perhaps a wily little girl, all of the toys were suddenly back on the floor, in between the sofa cushions, under the sofa, in the dog’s crate, in the dog’s mouth, and every other conceivable  little hole, crevice and space our the living room. She was a terror. I would have actually welcomed a bull in a china shop. Eventually, the bull would have settled down, unlike my little girl.

But there was one thing that could grab her attention immediately. No, it wasn’t pointy objects, it was Barney. “I loved Barney.” I never thought I’d say that, but I did. And guess what? Barney loved me too because he sang it to me every time he was on TV. And I loved my DVR. Whenever we needed my daughter to sit down for a little while, so we could pick up her toys, we’d play one of the many episodes of Barney that were on our DVR. Somehow Barney made my daughter sit down on the couch and become transfixed to the TV for the whole episode. I don’t know if Barney is a hypnotist or the anti-Christ, but he knew how to grab my daughter’s attention and keep it which I still haven’t mastered many years later.

In the world of advertising, Barney is the king of the toddler demographic. And as an advertiser, I think Barney is an untapped resource for advertisers. What if Baby Bop (another dinosaur) sang her song called “The Baby Bop Hop” (I swear she sings it like every episode. I get it already, I can hop now, thanks.) with some Fisher-Price instruments? Or if BJ (another dinosaur) who is working on potty training uses Charmin? And when Barney has had enough trying to watch over all these kids and answering all their questions, what if he had a nice glass of cabernet and a Name Brand sedative? Barney is powerful, probably more powerful than the President. Barney has a 100% approval rating among the 0-4-year-olds. The President doesn’t have that. Barney can tell those millions of babies and toddlers to do anything or buy anything and they’ll do it. So advertisers, start calling Barney. Oh wait, he doesn’t have a phone and he only comes to life in make-believe. Darn it! Well advertisers, start make-believing Barney is selling your products. Good luck.

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Make Google Glass Cool!

make Google Glasscool

This morning after checking out the Tumblr page White Men Wearing Google Glass, it became very clear to me what Google needs to do (and not to do) to market Google Glass.

Google Glass
Google Glass (Photo credit: Stuck in Customs)

If Google wants Glass to be the next big thing that everyone wants, they need to take the Glass away from all the non-hipsters and put them in the hands of the ‘cool’ kids like professional athletes, popular musicians, and TV & movie stars that the young people idolize.

If Lebron James or Jay Z or Ryan Gosling or Robert Downey Jr were spotted wearing Glass, then teens and twenty-somethings would want them. But right now, it’s the social media and digital professionals that have them and are showing them off.

Granted I enjoy reading and listening to much of their advice and I’m sure they are great beta-testers, but they’re not necessarily helping many people overcome the ‘dork’ factor of wearing Glass which I think will be one of the biggest hurdles that Google will face. So, either ask the current Google Glass owners to stop posting pictures of them wearing them or give them to the stars and celebrities that the demographic idolizes.

Many people don’t buy an iPhone because of its specs and technology. They buy it because it is a status symbol, it’s cool, it’s hip and everyone else has one, including the celebrities and stars they idolize. Make Glass cool and then sell people on the benefits.

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QR Codes on Billboards…Seriously?


Sometimes I’m perplexed by the stupidity of advertising and while I usually try to keep my mouth shut and not criticize my fellow colleagues’ works, there are times I just have to speak up. And this time it’s about QR Codes on billboards.

On my morning drive to work, I pass a billboard for the Air Force Reserve. It’s an image of a satellite in space with the headline “Guiding and Protecting America”. Below the headline is their web address,, which is easy to remember.  But here is where the billboard fails. To the left of the web address is a large QR Code for people to scan and I assume go to But perhaps it takes them to a special landing page. I wouldn’t know because I have yet to attempt to capture the code while driving down the highway at 65 mph in the morning traffic. I have enough problems capturing QR Codes on stationary objects that are right in front of me. Capturing a QR Code on my phone is what I would envision a surgeon goes through performing heart surgery. I have to hold my hand steady and keep the QR Code on target for a second or two or I lose and I don’t get the QR Code captured. At least I didn’t kill someone. My odds, of killing someone while capturing a QR Code while driving, are probably pretty good.

We’re told not to text and drive because it distracts us and could lead to an accident or possibly death. But yet, businesses put QR Codes on billboards expecting us to take our eyes off the road while traveling at a brisk speed in order to go to a website that we’ll surf while driving? I think it’s only a matter of time before QR Codes on billboards near busy streets and highways are banned. If the Air Force Reserve wants to protect America, they may want to remove the QR Codes from their billboards.

While looking for an image of the Air Force Reserve billboard, I came across the image of the billboard above. I really wish this was a fake billboard, but it is indeed real. Hopefully, those that see their billboard will heed the message and not text while driving and hopefully they will not try to scan the QR Code either, as I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “Scanning while driving is dangerous too.”


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