BMW used “the Internet” to sneak in URL for Super Bowl ad

I was truly fascinated that a car company adopted a 21-year old news clip to promote its brand during the Super Bowl. This while other car companies did the same-old, same old car shots.

I am talking about the BMW I-3 commercial, featuring Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel. This one:

Piecing together conversations from the behind-the-scenes interviews on the set, and looking at the two videos (the flash-back shot in the commercial, and the unedited video clip from 1994) it is interesting to see what clever editing was involved. Green-screens, and inserts.

Gumbel and Couric sound genuinely lame, as most of us were about this thing called the Internet in 2004. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) most of us don’t have archive footage of our conversations, when we first encountered the weird string of colon and slashes that were called ‘addresses.’

Around 2007, I recall a very prominent thought leader in marketing and communications similarly question the purpose of Twitter, and its @ sign, of course.

But back to the BMW ad, you may have noticed an email address that slashed briefly on the cutaway shot, as if Gumbel is reading it. (They sliced in his voice to read the address, as if he did it in 1994. BUT, the actual address he read was (You could see the clip here.) Also quaintly, the ‘at sign’ in this clip is a circle around the a, not a continuous line connecting the a.

The neat trick is that the email address domain is a promotional website for curious folk who thought they’d check it out – and I did, because I suspected the ad agency was not going to let that one pass.

Check it out for yourself! There’s probably a one-in-a-million chance of winning the car, but hey!

When life gives you lemons, don’t taint your lemonade, bro!

Maybe the headline to this post ought to be “Why editors make poor marketers.”

The Virginian-Pilotblew it” as its editor said, apologizing for the error. No small typo, this. They printed an entire story, photos and all, with a wrong headline claiming the Colts beat the Saints! The apologies were profuse:

But then the editor added this:

We did remake the page for those who want to buy a Sports front suitable for framing. Just go to here to order it.”

The comeback from some readers was predictable! One reader wrote:

“Your paper makes a HUGE error and I am supposed to pay you $79 for a corrected framable(yes I am a Saintas fan)version! … The Virginian-Pilot, Toyota and the Chinese drywall manufacturers should go into business together, you all would be very succesful.” Ouch!

To use the editor’s own word — for the poor marketing ploy, not the headline error, “as far as errors go, this was a whopper.”

With so much social media, why a Census Super Bowl spot?

So many Super Bowl ads, so little attention to go around. I’ve always been saying these ads are a total waste of time. Do you really care if the Clysedales didn’t appear in a spot? (Apparently we do. They polled that question -and created a Wikipedia entry for them. Really!)

So, speaking of polling, I have to say that the $130 million Census campaign –never mind the cost of making the Bowl ad– is worth a second look. Especially with the cost of  running the ad being in the neighborhood of $2.5 million.

“We’re advertising again,” the Census chaps say, observing what we all know that the Bowl is “rare, in that viewers are just as tuned in to see the commercials as the program itself.”

And yes, there’s the media-relations effect: Run the ad, get editorial comment. The famous carrot that says viewers will rush online once they watch the ad, because it that’s how TV –practically on life-support, tethered to the Net –works today.

But after they dispense with the popular wisdom about buzz and multiplier effects (perhaps after so many meetings with its agency, DDB) they note in true Census-boys style that “If just one percent of the folks watching the Super Bowl had their minds changed to mail back a census form they would have otherwise ignored, it helps save the taxpayers between $25-30 million in expensive follow up costs to collect these forms later.”


Translation: Watch ads, adjust your attitude toward being asked personal questions, save the country a boatload of cash, help us pay our agency.

I get that, Department of  Census. No need to repeat this point about 3 times in your blog and press releases.

Yes, I mentioned a blog. This is where this campaign  gets interesting because the obscenely expensive ad is supported with richer slices of content, some of which is embedded in social media channels. I like the fact that the Director of the Census is blogging, that there’s a Road Tour Blog and lots of space devoted to answering the questions people ask that make of break a census. The Flash site may be a tad too addy, but it documents stories, a la Story Corps, of ordinary people. The YouTube channel has plenty of video outtakes. The Flickr site has snapshots of an America few of us see every day. This one on left is supposedly at a Lutheran Church in Richmond, California. Thai dancers! The 5,000 fans on Facebook must mean something. and there’s Twitter just in case you miss all other channels.

So with all of this content so well thought out, is the cost of a Super Bowl ad really worth it? I liked the ad, but the greatest ad is not worth being tossed into a space filled with products and services that only seem to lust for eyeballs and water-cooler talk.

There are plenty of other ways to get buzzy, even if that was the objective. As Erik Qualman observes, why not use Facebook and Twitter to GET people to answer those darned 10 simple census questions, and not be entangled in “a $340 million boondoggle“? Because that not feasible, why not use social media to incentivize people to fill out their forms. If the media-as-a-repeater argument is important, why not let 300 million people start something that the media will talk about. (Rather than feed this controversy.)

Why not start with those 2,035 followers on Twitter!

As the character in the ad says at the end (somewhat perplexed) “Absolutely!”

What do “edgy” Super Bowl ads say about the brand?

If the definition of being edgy is a naughty reference to body part, then you could say GoDaddy, the domain name registrar in Scottsdale, Arizona has passed the anatomy test.

But what does it tell you about the service it offers or its the customer experience? I have dealt with the company many times on domain issues, and I can tell you it does have an excellent customer experience. But I would have never understood that, or even thought it was the company’s core strength on the strength of its expensive, pathetic Super Bowl ads. Even the one that shows off a wild ‘marketing’ department.
Besides, the category of edginess is so old (remember the 2003 “catfight” spot from Miller light?) in advertising terms, you’d be forgiven if you mistook them for running a commercial made in the late nineties. Its recent ads have featured racy racer Danica Patrick.

In 2004, Anheuser-Busch tried irreverence with a flatulent horse, a big flop. More recently went on to do humor a different way, with “Language Course,” where a teacher instructs Hispanic students about how to ask for a Bud Light. That one, latching on to the simmering immigration issue, topped the list of the most replayed ads on TiVo last year. The fatulent horse, rightly went down as one of 10 worst ads of all time.

In “Catfight,” two guys watching the two mud-wrestling girls comment that it’s what they would call a great commercial. Yeah right. That one too, went down in flames. BUT –in a move that proves those in the “marketing department” just can’t get enough of this stuff — there’s a (groan!) sequel to the catfight. Featuring to fat guys.

Adjust the script a bit and change the logo at the end and it could easily pass for a GoDaddy ad…

Quotes from the week of 26 January, 2008

“All we did was add more elves.”

Ann Bologna, president of Toy, on the success of the “elf yourself” campaign for Office Max, that drew visitors to visit the site and create 123 million elves, translating in to a reach of 26.4 million people.

“The difference is that we now have to provide a little foreplay before going all the way.”

Len Gutman, at ValleyPRBlog, on the need for symbiotic relationships between hacks and flacks via social media.

“Everyone wants the Tiffany box, but there is no Tiffany box.”

Dave Coffey, director of media services at Sapient, on a survey of 120 professionals about digital marketing budgets, and the inability to measure social networking gains.

“A vast dynamic knowledge ecosystem that is in a constant state of creation, use, reuse and improvement.”

Jimmy Wales and Rich Baraniuk in an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, on their dream of making textbooks and learning material open to everyone, and the Capetown Declaration.

“There was a basic lack of integrity in the Clinton show last night.”

Larry Lessig on the Democratic debate, and the possible infection of the Clintom campaign with the “Karl Rove virus.”

“Appalling” and “saddening”

Senator Hillary Clinton, responding to Karl Rove’s recent suggestion that the Democrats responded to 9/11 with timidity.

“We’ve changed our whole marketing plan so we can leverage something out of this smokin’ hot spot.”

Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy on getting a Super Bowl ad approved by the Fox network, after submitting 10 other “edgy” commercials that were rejected, as they were for the past few years.

“Journalists are such tools.”

A reader of the Arizona Republic commenting on the fact that this rejection-approval “story” has been repeated for many years.