Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Ad Wars

A World Lit Only by Fire : The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance - Portrait of an Age by William ManchesterI could be mistaken, but television advertising has gotten much better (or at least, more effective) over the last fifteen or so years.

I have these tapes of great college basketball games that I made in the mid- to late-eighties. When I occasionally watch these old games, I'm struck by how bad some of the old commercials are. In fact, some are downright pathetic if we compare then and now. Here's an example: in 1987, a major insurance company ran a series of ads that featured a heart monitor tracing a heart beat. At least that's the most memorable part of the ad. Contrast that with today's equivalent: AFLAC's ubiquitous duck. That series of ads will probably run for a decade, or at least until a the duck overdoses, Belushi-style, on a coke/heroin "hardball". It ain't easy handling fame, even if you're a frickin' duck.

The beer wars are even better. Back in the day, you had the Budweiser Clydesdales (I never figured out how imagining the smell of horses**t sold a lot of beer, but maybe that's just me) and the "Tastes great, less filling" has-been sports celebs hawking Miller Lite.

Today, Miller is going after Anheuser-Busch in a big way. Their amusing "President of Beers" campaign ("...This is America, this isn't a Monarchy!...") was a nice jab at A-B. Then the carb counter ads (apparently, Miller Lite has only 3 carbohydrates compared to Bud Light's 420 carbohydrates, based upon my careful review of the commercial). And now Miller is running the taste tests, in which a Bud drinker:

a) sips an unmarked Miller beer and says, "mmmmmmmmmmm".
b) sips a Bud and then immediately gags, followed by a disgusting, lengthy sequence of projectile vomiting in which the camera is covered with goopy chunks

One can only imagine where this whole thing is going. Maybe Miller ads five years from now will show two brothers walking down the street with their dates. One is drinking a Miller, the other a Bud. The Bud drinker takes a sip and then spontaneously combusts, screaming as his entire body burns to a blackened crisp. The Miller brother looks over, shrugs and continues walking, this time with a beautiful girl on each arm.

Of course, the presidential election is going to escalate the entire debate. We've got groups like Move-on.org funding upwards of $50 million in TV ads (in what appear to be borderline-illegal soft-money campaign contributions). And then I'm sure some GOP bagman is funding similar ads pitching the viewpoint of groups like the Swiftboat Veterans, who are hammering Kerry on his service record.

Bottom line is I would love to know what Move-on's backers (George Soros?) are expecting out of a Kerry presidency that's worth $50 million. Where's CBS' crack investigative reporting on that topic? And who's actually funding the Swift-Vet's ads - and what do they want out of the deal?

I can envision how these campaign ads are going to escalate.

Kerry ad: shows battered troops in Iraq, flash-cutting scenes from Vietname back and forth, and ending with: "George Bush... he's gotten us into another Vietnam".

Bush ad: shows an Independence Day like special-effects sequence of New York City getting vaporized by a nuclear weapon, finishing with: "John Kerry thinks France will protect us. Do you?".

Let's just cut to the chase and air the really good ads!

DeskLog, Part V

A quick followup on the DeskLog concept. A large local company has expressed an interest in exploring the concept for proprietary use on their Intranet. I'll follow up in this space as ethical behavior and decorum permits. And don't giggle when I say that.

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