This is the plastic shopping bag in which you get to carry home your purchases from the Salem State College campus bookstore.
Follett, the company Salem State uses to manage its campus store, knew enough to invest in good design (and a good headline) for its shopping bags. It's amazing how few retailers value good design.
Even before Target stores started hiring designers such as Michael Graves and Isaac Mizrahi to design exclusive product lines for the retail chain, Target distinguished itself from other discount department stores with its appreciation for good design.
I still don't know why other discount stores hadn't thought of it years before Target came on the scene.
When prorated over the number of products produced, the fixed cost paid up front for simple good design is peanuts. Yet the impact on increased sales is huge.
It works that way for advertising and marketing as well as teapots and dresses. And it goes for copy as well as design. That companies (and B2B companies are the worst offenders) continue to penny pinch when it comes to hiring professional creative teams is incredibly shortsighted and, frankly, pretty stupid.
The Boston Globe is trying something new. The paper is giving advertisers the option of putting an advertising message on a Post-Its-like sticker that is affixed to the front page of the paper.
It's an interesting new medium that could be used in many creative ways. Too bad the company behind this morning's yellow stickie didn't have more imagination.
Today's Globe features a message from a car dealership, with the 'handwritten' directive to "Call Me!" It leaves unanswered the question, "Why should I?"
Nonetheless, I called the number. I got a recording that told me a representative would be on any moment and if I would please stay on the line after speaking with the representative so the recording could ask me some questions about the quality of my conversation with said representative.
Well, okay. Now I know what's in it for the dealer but I still don't have a darn clue as to why I should lift a finger.
Too bad the dealership didn't use the stickie to direct consumers to an online preview of next season's cars -- or a list of bargains from this year's line. Or the stickie could have offered consumers some sort of incentive to come in for a test drive. A discount on post-winter car servicing would have worked great. Heck, just about anything would have worked better than the actual promotion.
I don't mind advertising on the sides of buildings if it's well done; that is, interesting to look at and in keeping with its surroundings. Like this clever outdoor advertising presumably meant to build awareness and add to the hip factor of the Mini Cooper automotive brand.
I do have one criticism, though. The uninitiated (and those with less-than-perfect vision) may not realize that it's the Mini Cooper being advertising here.
Globally, 14% of Internet users use the free web browser, Firefox, myself included. So what possible excuse could Wal-Mart have for allowing its Video Download Help page to look like this when viewed via Firefox:
By the way, Wal-Mart's video download service is not compatible with Mac, either.
You'd think with all the "Wal-Mart sucks" bumper stickers, T-shirts and blog posts out there, Wal-Mart would be trying to improve its image by not greeting its website visitors with the Internet equivalent of "F-you!"
I had originally intended this post to be about a philanthropic project, Dress Up Against AIDS. Brazilian artist Adriana Bertini has designed 14 garments entirely made from factory rejected condoms and meant to be used in raising awareness -- and presumably funding -- for the fight against AIDS.
At the end of this post, it was my intention to provide a link where you could make a donation, if you were so inclined. And that's when all the trouble started.
Knee-jerk reactions against advertising prevent a lot of colleges and universities from raising more money than they could.
In my work with colleges and universities, I've found their in-house marketing people to be not only very bright but extraordinarily dedicated to be willing to put up with the attitudes of their own coworkers.
In this case, the fight against AIDS is losing potential funding.
After much googling in my search for where to send you if you wanted to donate to the Dress Up Against AIDS project, I discovered that Columbia College in Chicago is displaying the condom dresses until January 4.
Great, I thought, I'll send readers to the college to make a donation.
That would have been a good idea if Columbia College had thought to put donation information on the part of its website dedicated to AIDS awareness. It didn't.
I can bet what happened. The very well-intentioned types in charge of the AIDS projects at the college didn't want to 'sully' their good works by involving any advertising or marketing types in their mission. It had never occurred to them that people reading about their philanthropic endeavors would be moved to make a donation on the spot -- something the most junior of advertising people could have told them would happen.
One wonders how much additional money in the fight against AIDS Columbia College would have raised if they'd had a little more respect for the work of their coworkers in advertising and marketing.
I'd signed up for paperless billing -- instead of a bill, one gets an email and the option to pay the bill online -- but I had no way of knowing that the phone company's technology isn't compatible with my Mac.
Not only does the telecommunications giant's technology not know what to do with a Mac, it isn't programmed to tell me that the transaction it just thanked me for completing isn't valid.
If this flyer had come from some small business where I would have expected the copy to be written by a non-copywriter, I might not even have noticed it. But this came from Staples, number 137 on this year's Fortune 500 list. Not only does Staples employ an advertising agency, it has an in-house creative department that includes a staff of seasoned copywriters.
So where did this goddawful headline come from?
I can think of three possibilities -- none of which should be an acceptable scenario. Here they are in no particular order:
1. The creative strategy was to convey the message that Staples has made the Internet a handy resource and some literal-minded marketing type who out-ranked the creative team forced this lame headline into production. (Any creative who's ever worked in an ad agency has lived through this scenario.)
2. For some reason, what should have been a fairly minor project turned into the job from hell and the poor copywriter -- beaten, bedraggled and bullsh-t -- gave up and did what he/she had to do to get this albatross off his/her desk. (Sad to say, we've all been there, too.)
3. All the writers considered this flyer to be an assignment beneath their dignity and it was assigned to an unsupervised intern or the marketing geek just went ahead and wrote it himself/herself. (This happens in agencies with an overabundance of egos.)
Thanks to Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette -- which happens to be opening today -- the Los Angeles Times reports that layer cakes have become a foodie fad. So why is the food industry ignoring the Princess and her sweet tooth for cakes?
The fashion world has made good use of Marie Antoinette, an extravagant spread in Vogue magazine being a prime example.
But why isn't Food TV doing a special on fabulous cake recipes? Where is the Williams-Sonoma limited-edition series of French cake pans? Why doesn't the current Martha Stewart Living have a section on making petite fours?
The food and related industries are wasting a golden opportunity.
For the Record
Marie Antoinette never said, "let them eat cake," in response to the scarcity of bread and potential starvation of her people. The quotation was but one of many falsehoods attributed to the scapegoated Princess.
Let's say you have to buy a new garbage disposal. Can you imagine yourself thinking:
Any brand but InSinkErator. I think they're dangerous because I watched a young woman on a TV show show off her superhero powers by putting her hand down a drain and turning on the InSinkErator garbage disposal so it chopped her fingers off. Her fingers grew back. I don't think my fingers would grow back if I used an InSinkErator to chop them off. I'm staying away from that brand.
And yet the company that manufactures the InSinkErator presumes we're all just that dumb.
Emerson Electric has filed suit against NBC because a character on the show Heroes demonstrated her supernatural powers by purposefully mangling her fingers in a garbage disposal that just happened to bear the InSinkErator name. Emerson thinks the scene "casts the disposer in an unsavory light, irreparably tarnishing the product."
If Emerson Electric had been my client, I would have suggested they ask NBC for permission to use the scene promotional purposes, with a concept something like, "Strong enough to stand up to a superhero. Imagine what it does to potato peels." I bet NBC would have let them, too.