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The Marketing Empire of Neopets
has a staggering 25 million members worldwide. It has been translated into 10 languages and gets more than 2.2 billion pageviews per month. These dedicated Neopians spend an average of 6 hours and 15 minutes per month on the site. What's more, its demographics are the stuff of marketers' dreams: Four out of five Neopians are under age 18, and two out of five are under 13.
Neopets collapses the boundaries between content and commercials. Many zones in the vast make-believe world, like the Firefly Mobile Phone Zone, are sponsored by companies, and there are branded games like Nestlé Ice Cream Frozen Flights and Pepperidge Farms Goldfish Sandwich Snackers. Neopets calls its model "immersive advertising" and hypes it in a press kit as an evolutionary step forward in the traditional marketing practice of product placement."
Misguided Business Metaphors
Richard Conniff at the Smithsonian Magazine
explains why all those business metaphors involving lemmings, weasels, ostriches, lions and 800-pound gorillas are wrong.
"I once worked on a TV documentary about lowland gorillas; on an average day the dramatic episodes consisted of the alpha male passing gas, picking his nose and yawning. Then he did the same things, the other way around. Over and over. This is probably not the image a hard-charging executive wants to present to the public."
Cola Wars: Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising
From the collection of The Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising in Tennessee
Russian Agency Streamlines Product Placement in Books
Russian marcom agency Fabula works with some of the country's best-selling pulp-fiction and sci-fi authors on product placement deals. The company's site
(in Russian) provides a publishing calendar for each of some 20 authors on its roster, profiles the books' target audiences, and outlines the range of advertising opportunities, from featuring a product packshot on the cover and using the brand in the book's title to developing entire plots around the product and introducing new brand-related characters.
The agency offers direct in-book advertising on dust cover, wrappers and special bookmarks, as well as inclusion of product samplers and full-page color inserts. The list of books ranges from Byron to Murakami. The agency has worked with such clients as Schwarzkopf and Schering-Plough.
Writers Guild of America
that pushes for limits on product placement has launched a Subservient Donald
website as part of a larger campaign
. The Donald dances, shows off pantyhose he's wearing, and sells paper towels.
Town Changes Name In Exchange for Free Satellite TV
"Back in the 1950s, Hot Springs, N.M., was renamed Truth or Consequences, N.M., after a popular quiz show. During the dot-com boom of 2000, Halfway, Ore., agreed to become Half.com for a year.
This week, Clark, Texas, morphed into DISH in exchange for a decade of free satellite television from the DISH Network for the town's 55 homes. Residents in Santa, Idaho, meanwhile, are weighing the pros and cons of changing to Secretsanta.com, Idaho.
Across the nation, small communities are being courted by large corporations who say renaming a town provides a marketing buzz that can't be bought in television ads. Though some worry about corporate America's increasing influence in local government, many towns seem eager to accept."
-- ABC News
Drawing Logos from Memory
Here's "an attempt
to evaluate the actual power of brands by making Austrian people draw a total of twelve logos (nine international, three typically European) from memory, 25 people per brand."
Blogs Encourage Ad Critique
"In a departure from mainstream media, blogs often encourage readers to critique their advertisements, providing a direct link for comments that are routed to the advertiser. Shawn Gold, VP-sales and marketing at Weblogs Inc., said the feature proves useful to marketers who were debating whether or not to start their own blogs."
-- Ad Age
Focus Groups Under Fire
"Exasperation with focus groups, while not universal, is growing as companies look for better ways to get inside consumers' heads, often assisted by new technology and the Internet. The dissatisfaction and the proliferation of new research approaches has been escalating so rapidly that the ad industry's main trade group has been spurred to conduct the first widespread study of testing methods since the 1950s."
-- Business Week
Not specifically related to Branding Culture, but one of our current graduate students (me, in this case) has a new article on Slate.com
, considering how Apple's decision to sell broadcast content on-demand might change the face of network television.
Keeping Up With the Jones
"Peter van Stolk, the 40-year-old founder of Jones Soda
, was quick to learn the rules of the industry and then ignore them. Since he began selling his iconoclastic drinks out of ice chests in snowboarding shops and tattoo parlors in 1996, he's sold 187 million bottles. In explaining the runaway success of the brand, van Stolk is the first to admit, "The world doesn't need another soda." But what young cynical consumers apparently did need was a brand with which they could identify. Unlike the slick Madison Avenue spin of huge competitors, Jones Soda -- without any money for advertising -- created a cool under-the-radar appeal by urging fans to send in photographs to the website to use as bottle labels. The Seattle company now has over a million submissions and has used 4,372 of the photos."
-- Business Week
MIT Prof: Religion Is Good for Economy
"Jonathan Gruber (MIT, Department of Economics) has posted "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?
" on the NBER web site. Gruber concludes that being in an area with more co-religionists leads to better economic outcomes through the channel of increased religious participation. Although this paper does not investigate the mechanism through which religiosity creates these results, Gruber suggests four possibilities: that religious attendance increases the number of social interactions in a way peculiar to religious settings; that religious institutions provide financial and emotional "insurance" that help people mitigate their losses when setbacks occur; that attendance at religious schools may be an advantage; and, finally, that religious faith may simply improve well-being directly by enabling the faithful to be "less stressed out" by the problems of every day life."
-- Tax Prof
Branding Through Architecture
"When companies like Apple, JetBlue, and Toyota want to build structures that articulate who they are, they turn to Gensler, an architecture and design firm with 28 offices, 2,000 employees, and 2004 revenues of $264 million. Done Gensler’s way, buildings become a subtle expression of corporate personality. “We design everything to fit the message of the brand,” says Dian Duvall, principal in the firm’s San Francisco headquarters. So how do you translate the ephemeral qualities of a corporate image into tangible structures of concrete, steel, and glass?"
-- Business 2.0
"Inspired by the world's obsession and devotion to the iPod, iBelieve
is a replacement lanyard for your Shuffle. It is a social commentary on the fastest-growing religion in the world."
Site Sells Products That Appear On TV Shows and Movies
is working on a website
that will sell stuff that appears as product placement in TV shows and movies (intended or not), a kind of reverse product placement business. From Times Dispatch
: "For consumers, Visure will be a Web site that features a catalog of products found in movies and television shows. Users will be able to click on pictures of different movies or shows on the Visure Web site and pull up most of the items that are placed in the background of a screenshot or purposefully -- if not craftily -- put near the camera."
-- via AdJab
Study: Concurrent Media Exposure
Ball State Uni's Center for Media Design
is selling a "consumer-centric, data-driven look
at patterns of Concurrent Media Exposure (CME) -- including how common it is, how much of the media day it occupies, and what media are regularly combined in concurrent exposures. Some findings:
- CME is pervasive (involving over 96% of the study's participants) and constitutes a substantial portion of all media exposure (30.7 percent of the media day).
- CME differs across media in incidence and time accrued – some media are almost always experienced concurrently with other media (e.g., instant messaging, telephone, newspaper) and some have a low amount of CME (e.g., DVD viewing)."
"Madison Avenue was once known for men in gray flannel suits. Today some of its most credible foot soldiers wear T shirts and sneakers. They are 280,000 strong, ages 13 to 19, all of them enlisted by an arm of Procter & Gamble called Tremor
. Their mission is to help companies plant information about their brands in living rooms, schools and other crevices that are difficult for corporate America to infiltrate. These kids deliver endorsements in school cafeterias, at sleepovers, by cell phone and by e-mail. They are being tapped to talk up just about everything, from movies to milk and motor oil--and they do it for free."
-- Commercial Alert
Vatican on Advertising
"Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has frequently addressed the question of the media and their role and responsibilities. She has sought to do so in a fundamentally positive manner, viewing the media as "gifts of God" which, in accordance with his providential design, bring people together and "help them to cooperate with his plan for their salvation."
-- Pontifical Council for Social Communications
"Everything I Touch" Photo Ethnography
Jan Chipchase writes
about an interesting variation of the photo-ethnographic research method called "Everything-I-Touch":
"Using a digital camera, the participant is asked to take a photo of everything they touch for at least half a day sometimes from the moment they get up. If you like user research data, the results are a rich orgy of the mundane. The method was successful enough in achieving its original aims, but also yielded other interesting data such as highlighting the flow of the day, the order in which tasks were completed - people likely to pee before checking the weather in the mornings, and understanding the range of contexts where the user spends time."
PETA Gives Away Colonel Cruelty Masks
PETA is giving away Psycho Colonel Sanders masks
just in time for Halloween to protest KFC's cruel treatment of chicken. Buy a mask from Burger King
for your significant other, and you can stage Colonel's cruelty toward Subservient Chicken, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
How the Open Source Revolution Impacts Your Brands
Advertising Age runs a column by Bob Garfield
on the effects of emerging open-source culture on brands:
In the distance? It’s a crowd forming -- a crowd of what you used to call your “audience.” They’re still an audience, but they aren’t necessarily listening to you. They’re listening to each other talk about you. And they’re using your products, your brand names, your iconography, your slogans, your trademarks, your designs, your goodwill, all of it as if it belonged to them -- which, in a way, it all does, because, after all, haven’t you spent decades, and trillions, to convince them of just that?"
If you don't have a password for free access, pick it up at BugMeNot.com
Burger King Farked
Burger King's masks
ended up in the Photoshop-happy paws of Farkers
Burger King Halloween Masks
Burger King gives you a great chance
to creep your friends out this Halloween by dressing up as the ever smiling King or the Subservient Chicken. Brand-mascot costumes? Why not. Last-year's hit was the iPod ad outfit
Smurfs' Village Bombed in an Ad
"The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.
The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement."
Insipired by Escher's Relativity
, created by Alien Loves Predator
, found via Jack Cheng
Kinder Chocolate Icon Publishes Memoirs
"Guenter Euringer, whose dazzling smile has helped sell millions of boxes of chocolate bars, is now 42 and ready to talk about his secret life as an icon. His autobiography, The Chocolate Child, was launched in Munich on Tuesday. The question he is always asked is how much he earned for the advertisement - and the answer, he says, is just 300 Deutschmarks (150 euros or £100). Curiously, Mr Euringer's face has begun to be replaced on Kinder chocolates in Switzerland in recent weeks" (bottom photo, spotted by a Flickr user
The Culture of Spam
is an alternate map of the world that represents a country through its junk mail. One can examine and compare the type and subject of spam mails sent throughout the world, getting a feel of social values and desires in a culture." A project by MIT Media Lab.
Japan Ad Industry Loses Interest in US Stars
"A Hollywood in-house secret, Japanese TV commercials
were once talked about with a wink and a shake of the head. Piles of cash were paid to stars willing to peddle anything from whiskey to cigarettes, cars to coffee, instant noodles to cafe latte — as long as nobody told the fans back home. Sadly, the days of seeing, say, Harrison Ford guzzling Kirin beer may be over. American stars have not vanished from the Japanese advertising landscape, but their numbers have dropped dramatically since the heyday of the 1990s.
"The mystique has faded," said Akihiko Sasamoto, who heads the Asian casting division of Hakuhodo, one of Japan's biggest advertising and marketing agencies. "You no longer have this distinction between foreign artists and Japanese artists. So we don't need to spend a big amount of money on a Hollywood star."
-- LA Times
Advertising Icon Museum to Open in Missouri
of more than 900 advertising icons spanning a century of American history will open in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2007.
PokerShare.com Offers to Put Name on Town
"An online poker site wasn't bluffing when it offered $100,000 to have its name stamped on a community. Officials at PokerShare.com
are offering that sum if the western Kentucky hamlet of Sharer - which has no city council, no grocery and no post office - changes its name to PokerShare.com."
-- My Way
Tracking LGBT References in Commercials
"Commercial Closet Association
educates and influences the world of advertising to understand, respect and include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) references in advertising for successful business results and to achieve a more accepting society."
Branding the Army
"As the government and ad agencies gear up their marketing machinery to stave off the recruitment shortfall and avoid possibly having to resurrect the draft, they are encountering a promotional hurdle: the perception that serving in the armed forces means more than merely coming in harm's way. Service, in the eyes of many potential recruits and their families, may mean death."
-- NY Times
"Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts [the author of LoveMarks] has been telling the Pentagon how to spin the war on terror. His advice? Call our struggle, the Fight for a Better World."
Staples Sells "Easy Button" From Its Commercials
Due to what must be popular demand, Staples is now selling the Easy Button
(or Panic button, depending on who's pushing) that appeared earlier in its "That Was Easy" commercials.
-- via Ad Land
Two Louisiana Lawyers Patent Katrina Drink
"A pair of Louisiana lawyers are seeking to cash in on the killer hurricane by slapping the name Katrina on alcoholic beverages. In a new filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Andrew Vicknair and Harold Ehrenberg provided federal officials with a logo--reproduced above--bearing the word Katrina, the phrase "Get Blown Away," and a small satellite image of the deadly storm."
-- The Smoking Gun, via Agenda
Researchers to Publish Branded Entertainment Spending Report
PQ Media and iTVX are partnering to collaborate on the first global branded entertainment spending and measurement analysis. This research report, titled Global Branded Entertainment Forecast: Product Placement Spending & Measurement Analysis, will be launched in the first quarter of 2006.
-- press release
More Consumer-Created Ads
to another example of customer-created ads for their favorite brands
, this time for American Apparel
and posted on Flickr (more on Flickr brandspotting
Speech Bubble Social Commentary
"I printed 50,000 of these speech bubble stickers. I place them on top of movie posters, ads and signs all over New York City. Passers are invited to fill them in. I go back and photograph the results