Absurd Marketing: Does It Work?

I find myself regularly hunting down commercials for either this blog or “What Were They Thinking?” Some are funny. Some are boring. Some are poorly executed and bring out my inner rage demon. And some are examples of perfectly absurd marketing, hooking my attention and dragging me down the rabbit hole of hunting down anything else the marketer has put out.

Absurd Marketing memeI haven’t owned a television in almost seven years (not a hipster brag), and I became a cord cutter six years ago … yet somehow I find myself regularly hunting down commercials for either this blog or “What Were They Thinking?” Some are funny. Some are boring. Some are poorly executed and bring out my inner rage demon.  And some are examples of perfectly absurd marketing, hooking my attention and dragging me down the rabbit hole of hunting down anything else the marketer has put out.

For example, MoneySuperMarket.com, who I profile in an upcoming #WWTTMarketing, struck absurd marketing gold with me. Well, I guess they struck gold twice, because I went to talk about the initial set of ads that I discovered AFTER I came across the sequel (we can talk about that commercial and the surprise 80s super villain next week).

The initial “You’re So MoneySuperMarket” campaign ran from 2015 to 2016, and featured three main characters, Dave (the twerking businessman); Colin (the pole-dancing construction worker); and Gary, (the body-lockin’, booty-poppin’ bodyguard).

https://youtu.be/kUrsvegCkEc

Along with these three over-the-top characters, there are three hashtags: #epicstrut, #epicbuilder, #epicwolf, all of which played into social media, giving viewers the tools to talk about their favorite characters.

And then this happened:

MoneySuperMarket.com brought all three characters together for an Epic Dance off, and yes, hashtagged it like so: #epicdanceoff. Was it ridiculous? Yes. Yes it was.

The ads are absurd, hilarious and you can’t stop watching them … trust me. I showed my boyfriend the bodyguard ad, and we stayed on Youtube to watch the rest of the ads this past weekend.

But I wonder, does all this fantastic creative juice — I mean, c’mon, the commercials are well done — equal bottomline revenue? Does the absurd marketing pay off?

It’s hard to tell with MoneySuperMarket.com. First off, they’re a U.K. comparison website, letting you find the best deal on insurers and such. Aside from discovering that the twerking businessman ad upset a few thousand people, I couldn’t find out if they had seen a jump in usage.

So let me ask you: Would an amusing, ridiculous ad hook you enough to research more about the marketer, and then possibly take the next step to buy?

Note: Videos from The MoneySuperMarket on Youtube are, for some reason, not available in the U.S., so all of these clips are sourced from a variety of YouTubers.

My Time With ‘The Greatest’ – A Lesson in Authenticity

In 1986, I was doing TV lead generation for a Medicare Supplement brand when a gift fell into my lap. Muhammad Ali had purchased our Med Supp product for his parents, and was open to our overtures to endorse the brand.

Target Marketing Blogger Chuck McLeester with Muhammad Ali in 1986.
Target Marketing Blogger Chuck McLeester with Muhammad Ali in 1986.

In 1986, I was doing TV lead generation for a Medicare Supplement brand when a gift fell into my lap. Muhammad Ali had purchased our Med Supp product for his parents, and was open to our overtures to endorse the brand.

WOW! We were going to make a TV commercial with “The Greatest” and I would be spending two days on the set with him and his parents, Cassius and Odessa Clay.

It was a beautiful day on location at a classic Southern-style home in Maryland with a wrap-around porch. At that time, the Champ could barely speak, and he didn’t really try to. Nor did he have to. His presence was overwhelming, his demeanor calm and confident, and the look in his eyes communicated nothing but warmth and kindness. He managed to muster enough control to say his one line at the end of the spot, but his mother, Mrs. Clay, did all the heavy lifting with the script.

Mr. and Mrs. Clay sat together on the porch while Mrs. Clay recited a classic DRTV script: Call out to the audience, present the problem/solution, and deliver a call to action. Cassius Clay Sr., who was not as smooth-spoken as his wife Odessa Clay, nodded in agreement.

All the while, Mr. Ali entertained the crew with his magic tricks and other antics, and he delighted some local children who had stopped by to view the spectacle, giving them his undivided attention until he retreated for his prayer time.

His demeanor bore little resemblance to the brash young fighter taunting his opponents with poetic bluster. Or to the man who was one of the most polarizing figures in America during a politically tumultuous era, denouncing the war in Vietnam, embracing the Muslim religion and changing his name to the one that we associate with the man who was the most recognizable person on the planet.

During that time, I was learning a lot about direct response marketing – grinding through the nitty gritty of maximizing lead volume within an allowable acquisition cost and testing ways to improve lead conversion. I don’t think I was conscious of the fact that I was a witness to one of the most amazing evolutions of a personal brand — ever.

After he lost his boxing license for three years over his refusal to be inducted into the army, he reclaimed the heavyweight championship, was exonerated as a conscientious objector, fought in the ring until 1981, and then became an ambassador for peace and tolerance. In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. It’s the highest civilian award in the United States.

Throughout his evolution, Ali never strayed from his core principles: fairness, self-confidence, hard work, determination, persistence and most importantly, authenticity.

These core principles were the essence of his brand and he embraced them throughout every stage of his life. That’s how it’s done.

Rest in Peace, Champ!

HULU.COM: An Intriguing Advertising Opportunity

Hulu is a fascinating Web site. Not only can its content be riveting to the viewer, but also represents a highly efficient medium for advertisers, enabling them to close the loop and measure actual ROI.

When I read that Hulu is drawing huge audiences, I went to the Web site and clicked on a movie—”Abel Raises Cain.” It is a 82-minute documentary about professional hoaxer Alan Abel, who was famous in the late 1950s for dreaming up and publicizing the “Society of Indecency to Naked Animals” with the mission of clothing naked animals. Over the years he has duped the media and made talk show hosts look like chumps and generally made a hilarious nuisance of himself with a slew of nutsy-fagen schemes, many of which are chronicled in this film.

This unique Web site offers full-length television shows and motion pictures; viewers remain on the site for a long time, sometimes a couple of hours—a boon for advertisers.

I sat through the entire film, which was presented with “limited commercial interruptions.” The TV-type commercial advertisements ranged in length from 10 to 30 seconds. Among the advertisers:
“Angels and Demons” (upcoming Tom Hanks film)
Nestea Green Tea
Honda Insight
Healthful Cat Food, Purina
Sprint Now Network
Swiffer Cleaner
Coldwell Banker

Returning to “Abel Raising Cain” on another day, I found additional advertisers:
American Chemistry Council
BMW Z4 Roadster
Toyota Prius
Panasonic Viera
Plan B Levenorgestra
Citi

At the end of this blog is a screenshot snapped during the BMW commercial. As you will see, the moving picture area takes up about half the computer screen, leaving a blank area above. At upper left is the film title, running time and the number of stars by reviewers. At upper right is a small response box that shows the car, the BMW logo and the headline:
The all-new Z4 Roadster
An Expression of Joy.

In light gray mousetype are two words: “Explore now”—the hyperlink to more information.

Once the commercial is finished and the film resumes, this little box remains on screen until the next commercial interruption. Then the next commercial’s response box stays on the screen. For the advertiser, this represents his presence onscreen for far longer than the 10-30 seconds allotted in the commercial.

Further, Hulu combines the razzle-dazzle of action-packed TV commercials with the advantage of direct marketing. The prospect clicks on the box, the advertiser has a record of the response to that commercial and that venue. This closes the loop: ad — response to ad — further info requested — and (hopefully) sale. The advertiser can do the arithmetic, measure the sales and determine whether the ad more than paid for itself or whether it was a financial loser.

This is far more valuable than running an ad on old-fashioned TV and hoping that people (1) have not left the room for a potty break and (2) will remember the thing when they are at the car dealer or supermarket.

What a direct marketer would do differently:
1. The response box at upper right is tiny compared to everything else going on. If Hulu wants happy advertisers, it should at least double its size, so that it is immediately obvious what to do.

2. The advertisers must make a terrific offer—something Free, for example—so the movie watcher is impelled to leave the film and go for the freebie. Or download a $500 certificate. With the tiny box and mousetype, these advertisers seem almost ashamed to ask you interrupt your movie to see what they have to offer. “Learn more” or “Explore now” in teeny-tiny light gray mousetype is not a compelling call to action.

3. My sense is that Hulu may be a tremendously efficient and relatively low-cost medium for testing TV commercials. Run an A-B split where one viewer gets the A commercial and the next viewer gets B and so on. The commercial that wins—gets the most responses—becomes control and is rolled out on TV, in movie theaters and anywhere else … until it is displaced by new commercial that tests better on Hulu.

With the Hulu model, razzle-dazzle TV-type commercials are combined with an immediate direct response mechanism. Trouble is that it is obvious the advertisers are allowing the general agencies that created the great commercials to handle the direct marketing element, which they know nothing about.

Old rule: never use a general agency for direct marketing.

But do spend some time at Hulu and think through how you might use it—either for sales or for testing.