The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

USA Today's Theresa Howard delivers a good wrapup of the buzz from last week's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, where the overriding message was to diversify your advertising message beyond just television.
Network TV ads still deliver the big audience — this year in the USA alone, advertisers are expected to spend $22 billion on them, a 9.8 percent increase over 2003, according to ad tracker TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. But many experts think the days are past when an advertiser can bet on TV spots alone.

"Before, you had the good old days of broadcast and mass media," says Roger Hatchuel, festival chairman. "With the money, you had access. It was easy. Today, with technology and digital, the consumers are in control. They can avoid advertising."

Advertisers need to adapt their mix of media to match changing consumer media-consumption habits, says Steven Fredericks, chief executive of TNS. "Human attention as an economic resource is scarce. (As a result) there is a fundamental shift in the way advertisers and advertising agencies buy media."
The components of this new marketing mix are Internet, advertainment/advertorials, and old-fashioned print and outdoor. Online viral and stunt advertising garners the most oohs and ahs:
Major advertisers such as Burger King and Ford have enticed consumers with online entertainment. Word of the sites spreads from user to user electronically — or through viral marketing.

Burger King in recent months has created a pair of humorous Web sites aiming to drive home messages also promoted in TV ads and stores.

One features a silly, interactive Subservient Chicken. Millions of visitors have spent time at, where they can command the "chicken" — a man in a tacky chicken suit in an equally tacky living room — to do any stunt they want. It's an offbeat take on BK's longtime message: Have it your way.

Another site is a parody of high-fashion Web sites. Burger King presents faux designer Ugoff, creator of the "ultimate lunch accessory" — bags for BK's new salad line. The Ugoff site features the BK "pouch" as well as actual bags by real designers.

Burger King plans to double its spending on such non-traditional ad forms next year vs. this year.
I question just how truly effective these cutesy viral marketing initiatives are. I know the Subservient Chicken site made the rounds around the Web, and even got a couple of inches in most print media. But did it really work? If you asked 9 out of 10 people during the height of the site's popularly what Subservient Chicken was, you'd get blank stares. It's really easy to confuse media buzz over an ad campaign with public resonance; very often, media attention doesn't mean the ads are actually hitting the mark with the broader consumer audience.