The Three Worst Advertisements ... of the month, anyway (originally published 30 October 2014)

Last week I was having lunch with a long-time colleague when he brought up the fact that advertising seems to have gotten worse. As we discussed it, we decided it wasn't the production values, which were all high, but the lack of any sort of Strategic direction. In what seems to be becoming a troubling trend, agency Strategy is either bad or isn't even considered before the ads are put in the marketplace. By way of example here are the three worst advertisements out there... all least for this week:

Lincoln MKC
Snickers - Johnny Manziel
Harmon Kardon - The Distortion of Sound

Lincoln MKC
If you haven't seen the Matthew McCanaughey ads for Lincoln, count yourself lucky. McCanaughey in these ads seems to playing his character from True Detective. The character is prone to metaphysical mutterings, and he is somewhat chilling, inscrutable and prophetic all at the same time.

This is very interesting a TV show. Using that character for an ad for car borders on malfeasance.

McCanaughey in the showcase ad is driving through what looks to be Anycity, USA, muttering "Sometimes you got to go back to actually move forward, and I don't mean going back to reminisce or chase ghosts. I mean going back to see where you came from."

Ok, I can buy the sentiment and the thought, but what does that have to do with the Lincoln MKC (a completely new model from Lincoln) other than the monologue takes place in it? Where is he going back to? Is it the city he is driving through? If it is; why can't we make out the city going by in the window? Is he talking about going back to it a Lincoln Heritage?

I don't know nor can I even guess at the answers because the ad never clues me in so ultimately I don't care; in other words, I don't think it is going to sell a lot of MKC's.

The ad can be seen here

Snickers - Johnny Manziel
I guess you can file this one under "Get a sports guy in our ad at all costs, even if it is going to hurt our brand"

In this ad, Johnny Manziel (the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns) is leading an exercise class of women and is transformed back to himself by eating a Snickers bar, the implication of which is that a tough guy like Manziel would never be caught dead teaching in a girly exercise class, I mean really "man-up" Manziel.

Broadcasting this at a time when the NFL is, how shall we say... having issues with its players' treatment of women and their subsequent kid-gloves treatment of those players, putting this, clearly anti-woman, ad on the air is just a stupid move.

But, even if this weren't the case, I guess the Strategists at the agency missed the memo that women still do most of the shopping in supermarkets, i.e. where Snickers are sold and to whom they largely are sold. And to make it all worse the Media guys are running it on HGTV which is predominately viewed by, you guessed it, women. 

Plainly insulting your customer just doesn't seem to me to be the best use of advertising dollars.

The ad can be seen here

Harmon Kardon - The Distortion of Sound
Since we are filing things away, this one should be put in the "Noble Endevor, but completely wasted money from a marketing perspective" file.

Harmon Kardon recently released a short documentary The Distortion of Sound which looks at how digital compression fundamentally leeches the richness out of music. In the music industry and amongst audiophiles there is a significant movement and education about the fact that most people aren't hearing recordings as they were meant to be heard.

For most people and in most situations there is not problem, hearing compressed music while you are walking down the street, on the bus, working out, isn't an issue because you can't hear nuance anyway because of the background noise.

However, for those of us who are audiophiles and musicians compression robs one of the full musical experience. For anyone, who doesn't think so, one can go to a High-Definition song seller such as HDTracks download one of your favorites songs there and compare it to the one you usually listen.

The documentary is well-done, however, it was done under the auspices as being advertising for Harmon Kardon. Harmon makes perfectly fine equipment. However, for us audiophiles Harmon isn't even in the consideration set of brands to purchase. For instance, the only way you will get my Bowers & Wilkins headphones off of my head is by pulling them off me when I die.

Unfortunately, for Harmon the people who are really going to care about this issue and will watch the whole thing are people like me who are never going to buy Harmon equipment. It's like Budweiser producing a documentary on the production of craft beers.

So why did they do it? I'm sure the agency got so caught up in a good idea, that they forgot to ask "is this a good idea for this brand?". Or perhaps they just didn't know the marketplace and the target. Or maybe they knew and went ahead and did it anyway because they needed the money. Whatever the circumstances, it comes down to lack of Strategy and wasted money for their client.

The documentary can be seen here: