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My Pitch to Chiquita Bananas.

Thank you, ladies, gentleman. Okay….Chiquita vs. Dole?

People…. c’mon, this is the “to-may-to’s” taking on the “to-mah-to’s” … except it’s bananas.  There’s no difference here. And forget about using that tired old “loaded with potassium” crap. People don’t care. Chiquita needs a messaging platform people care about. One that gives Chiquita a point of difference.

So … check this out:

“Chiquita Tarantula-Free Bananas.”

Now if you can just  hold your applause till the end of my presentation…let’s just jump into it, shall we? Tarantula-free is, in fact, a strong position. So strong it even lets us toss in that boring potassium message.

“All The Potassium. None of the Tarantulas.”

It holds together, which isn’t surprising really. We’re simply leveraging that consumer truth we’ve all heard, those stories about tarantulas hiding in banana bunches. One web site says, “… when bananas were transported as large bunches, tarantulas were accidentally imported. Now that bananas are shipped in small bunches, encounters are more rare.”

“Encounters are more rare”? Did anyone tell John Q. Public they’re more rare?  I sure didn’t.

So, perhaps we start off our campaign by going online into all the banana chat rooms and wondering aloud….“So, if Dole bananas ever seem to cost less, will anybody stop to think maybe it’s because DOLE IS STILL SHIPPIN’ BANANAS  IN BIG-ASS  TARANTULA-ENGORGED  BUNCHES????”

And just before we log off from the chat rooms, we’ll post this baby.

Ouch, another point for Chiquita. You know what else we could do? We’ll create this adorable little spokes-arachnid thingie, named “Harry” Tarantula, okay? And he’s all sad ☹ and homeless because he can’t live in Chiquita bananas anymore now that they kicked him out.

We could also follow up with a Chiquita app. We’ll call it “Hey Mr. Tally Man, Tally Me Tarantulas.” Just point an iPhone at a bunch of Dole bananas and it tells the shopper the estimated number of tarantulas she can expect to join her at dinner.

Meanwhile, over at the Chiquita display, there’s a computer chip playin’ a new version of that old song “Yes, We Have No Tarantulas.”

Chiquita people, I’m telling you, the tarantula angle is just lyin’ there, unused. Let’s get in front of this story, people. Thanks for listening. Feel free to email me at this address. We’ll bang out the compensation agreement and get goin’.

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You know, I’m half-serious here folks. If this idea didn’t skeeve out Chiquita’s main banana-buying customer (which I’m guessing that includes a lot of women) I’d say this campaign is actually a pretty interesting idea. Unfortunately, it makes the cardinal mistake of pairing gross imagery with food. But dammit, … if it didn’t … it woulda been cool, okay?

Some great ideas can often look kinda stupid from the curb. But over the years, I’ve found that any idea that makes you ask, “We couldn’t do this, could we?” is oftentimes a pretty good idea. Another good question to ask is, “Will people talk about this idea if we do it?”

Alex Bogusky once said, “If you’re about to spend advertising dollars on a campaign and you can’t imagine that anybody is going to write about it or talk about it, you might want to rethink it.”

(Although, I’m pretty sure when Alex said it, he wasn’t thinking about a campaign as stupid as “Tarantula-Free Bananas.”)

Advertising After The Zombie Apocalypse.

Image courtesy Comedy Central

As expected, U.S. entries to Cannes were way down this year given the recent Zombie Apocalypse.

Observers are surprised ad people continue to even exist given their worthlessness in a economy that now values productive trades like farmers, electricians, and mechanics. In fact, the few agencies still operating attribute their success almost entirely to being above the second floor.

“You’re not going to see as many TV entries from DDB this year,” remarked CD Jay Russell, speaking from the balcony over Whacker Drive. “The entire production work force of L.A. is infected and…” Russell’s interview was cut short as a horde of undead photographers’ representatives stormed the locked doors below, their withered purplish arms extended, still clutching portfolios and complimentary bagels.

Without television, U.S. agencies’ hopes at Cannes rest on a few out-of-home entries, including McCann’s boring “God help us” messages painted on sheets and hung from their Manhattan office windows. “There are a few decent headlines,” observed Creativity’s Theresa Nelson. “But most are the usual crap like, ‘Need water,’ ‘Need food.’ At least that one team was trying with the ‘John 3:18’ thing.”

A few agencies are breaking out with messaging designed to change the eating behaviors of the zombie hordes. But J. Walter’s “Eat Smart” backfired as zombies simply ate bigger brains. Tribal’s “Dot.Zom” experiment on Facebook failed because zombies can already  “like you” simply by eating your brains. And DDB’s campaign for a heart-healthy diet (“More Gra-a-a-a-a-a-ins, Less Bra-a-a-a-a-ains”) died after focus-group zombies crashed through the one-way mirrors and cracked the researchers’ skulls like rotten Georgia peanuts and ate their pulsing brains forthwith.

Agencies are now trying simply to survive. To divert the zombie hordes away from their agency on 17, creatives at DDB have hung posters in the stairwells positioning the JWT survivors on the 5th floor as “the other white meat.”

USA Today’s Ad-Meter: Man, That’s One Big-Ass Focus Group.

Well, I went 50-50 on my predictions for what would show up in the Top 10 of USA Today’s Ad Meter.

I guessed kinda right that a Bud Light spot would make it in. I guessed that another user-generated Doritos spot would make the top 10. That Weiden would a cool spot for Coke. That Pepsi would do something cool (the mind-reading one). And of course, the CareerBuilder monkeys would show up and win. And I was also right in guessing that Crispin (as much as I love ‘em and I do love ‘em) that Crispin would step in it with a misfire.

You can read all about it on USA Today’s Ad Meter page. Here’s their Top 10.
1. Bud Light “Dog Sitter”
2. Doritos “Pug’s Revenge”
3. Volkswagen “Darth Vader”
4. Doritos “Grandpa resurrected”
5. Pepsi Max “Can to girlfriend’s head”
6. Career Builder “Chimps return”
7. Pepsi Max “Reading thoughts”
8. NFL “TV show clips of fans”
9. Bridgestone “Beaver pays back good deed”
10. Coca-Cola “Border crossing guards”

I spent the entire game screwin’ around on Twitter and pretty much had a blast watchin’ the game with thousands of other ad geeks. (Best two tweets, both below, were about how bad the half-time show was.)

I had one eye on the spots and the other on a Twitter feed that was scrollin’ faster than the movie-credits on a late-night rerun. Since I pick the people I follow, I think my Twitter buddies picked pretty much the right spots; at least compared to the spots chosen by that august group of judges, the Ad Meter council.

Here’s my thing about the Ad Meter. It’s basically a big-ass focus group and we all know what happens in those sad windowless rooms with their plastic plants, M&Ms, and mall shoppers, people who were paid a small amount of money to feel temporarily in charge of something.  If I may get even more elitist here for a moment, here’s what one of their “judges” had to say about her criteria.

“I just like it to be funny. Sometimes I don’t even pay attention to what the ad is about, just that it is funny,” says Brenda Moore, 51, of Bakersfield, Calif., an Ad Meter panelist. She has reason to want to laugh. There are rumblings about cutbacks at her company. “My philosophy is pray on it and hope things turn out your way.”

Yes, I’m elitist. And I will be an elitist until the day I die. Because I simply refuse to adjust everything downward to appeal to what passes for the “common man,” which in America is basically anyone who watches Fox News. I can’t do it. Won’t do it. I don’t believe hitting people in the crotch with a can of Pepsi is funny. If that’s elitist, sue me.

But I can’t be that elitist. I laughed when the chimps wrecked that guys car in the CareerBuilder spot. Still, I wasn’t one of the many online goin’ on about “Man, all the Super Bowl spots suck!” Dude, … the half-time show? That sucked. Or the local commercials that ran during half-time, they sucked. In my opinion, spots on every Super Bowl are generally a little better than what plays the rest of the year. (Why clients and agencies try so hard for the Super Bowl is a mystery I wrote about in a previous posting.)

In America’s defense I was glad to see there wasn’t the same high level of sophomoric humor this year. Nothing as puerile as the “farting horses” (from Bud Light  a few years back), nor was there any poop humor or pee-pee jokes. I was also heartened to see the Ad Meter judges correctly put that annual national embarrassment of GoDaddy at the bottom of the list.

My personal top two picks were both from VW. Damn I loved that kid in the Darth Vader costume; such a good physical actor he was. And the animated “Beetle” was also stellar. (Ex GSDM-er Mark Peters did that one.) They tied in a great YouTube page takeover that was also pretty cool.

The other spot that just KILLED me was the Chrysler spot. Damn. It was a bit of a “hybrid,” if you will, in that it started off as a copy-driven brand spot, then at about forty seconds it became a visual story, and at the very end, it’s a celeb spot, and then a product spot. W+K, I bow to thee.

I liked the “Border Guards” one for Coke, but it bugs me that it’s kinda like a spot done in India for some brand of booze. But, people, there is NO way in hell Weiden copied anything. This is just another one of those unfortunate duplications that happen from time to time in this business.

For instance, it’s no slam on Doritos that years ago GSDM did a One Show silver-winning spot for 7-Eleven (below), complete with the same creepy finger-licking. This shit happens. (Well, sometimes it’s intentional, like those horrible Verizon ads which are clones of “Mac vs. PC.”)

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Skechers (if that’s how you spell it) did something horrible onscreen and I’ll never get those thirty seconds back. And while I didnt like seeing Crispin tank with that bad Groupon spot, c’mon guys, you shoulda seen that one misfiring from miles away.

In the end of course, the big cool new thing in Super Bowl 45 was the undercurrent of the web running through it all. It wasn’t the explosion of social media tie-ins I was expecting, but you could see a change beginning to happen. Social media was used before the game to build buzz and then during the game to redirect viewers back online.

“This is the new water cooler,” said Ann Mukherjee, Frito-Lay CMO. “Digital space is helping to re-create that human behavior of talking at the water cooler.”

Final note. I’ve been in the business a long time and I can tell you for a fact that nobody ever gathered around any fuckin’ water cooler. Where the hell did water coolers come from?

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POSTSCRIPT: Does it PAY to air a spot on the Super Bowl? Article in Austin American-Statesman where we discuss this question at some length.

Whipple’s Personal Super Bowl Ad Meter Predictions.

Every year we scratch our collective heads at the price broadcasters get for thirty seconds of Super Bowl. And while the figure this year is a gasp-worthy $3 mil, all this hand-wringing is the same as it ever was. Happens every year. I remember back in 1990 – when they were charging around $700,000 – and we were all, “WHAT? 700 LARGE?!?!? ARE YOU INSANE???” And still the brands line up, wallets in hand, and inventory is gone sometimes as early as November.

Okay, we get it. It’s the only mass-market play out there anymore.  Used to be that I Love Lucy got you 60% of America. Fast forward to today’s fragmented market and the 800 or so platforms you can get content, and it’s clear why some clients are hypnotized by the Bowl’s 45 rating. More compelling is the report that 44% of us will be watching the game just to see the commercials. (Lightspeed Research)

Well, from what I read, the investment can sometimes be worth it. University of Buffalo researchers discovered that USA Today’s Ad Meter winners boosted the companies’ stock prices the following Monday. In fact, UB researcher Kenneth Kim who co-authored the unpublished study said, “When you consider that the average market value of a company that airs an ad during the Super Bowl is about $30 billion, it increases their value by roughly $80 million in one day.” Okay, so maybe spots that land way up in the top ten of USA Today’s list aren’t a complete waste of money.

Which makes me think Monday morning must really suck for CMO’s whose $3 million bought them brand crypts somewhere between, I dunno, #28 to #99 on the list. (The guys who get the very bottom spot – #100? They can feasibly get away with it by claiming “Hey, that’s what we wanted to do, man. No, seriously.”)

If memory serves me, the bottom is usually full of brands that are all wrong for the venue or those that didn’t abide by the “rules” of advertising on the big game; rules which were spelled out rather delightfully in a Fed Ex spot on the 2005 Super Bowl. In 30 seconds, Fed Ex demonstrated all ten things a spot needed to score well: Celebrities, animals, dancing animals, cute kids, groin kicks, talking animals, attractive women, a famous pop song, a product message, and then a little comic pop at the end. If you look at what’s won in previous Ad Meters, they’re dead nuts on.

Say what you want about the validity of USA Today’s Ad Meter. Yes, their sample size fits in a phone booth but it’s here to stay so get over it. Even Mullen’s intriguing Brand Bowl (which I’ll be following) may not capture the true popular sentiment given how it’s powered by microblogging busybody ad-geek twits like me.

Here’s what I think people need to do. They need to just listen to their Uncle Whipple. He’s gonna nail it.

Here are my Top 10 predictions of what’s gonna win on Monday morning’s Ad Meter. I haven’t actually seen any of the spots, and my sample size is 1, either of which may affect results but I’ll stand by this list nonetheless. In fact, I’ll post the Monday after and own up to my list, good or bad.

Drum roll.

Uncle Whipple’s prediction for Ad Meter’s Top 10 spots:
• Two of Anheuser-Busch’s 8 spots
• One Skittles or Snickers spot
• One of Career Builder’s monkeys
• One of eTrade’s babies
• One from Coca-Cola (betcha Weiden will do something cool)
• One of the 7 or so movies, probably Cowboys & Aliens

I am less sure what the last three in the top 10 will be but I’m gonna guess:
• A user-generated spot for Doritos
• Pepsi may do something fun for PepsiMax
• One of those annual national embarrassments from Go Daddy

(And for my lucky-strike extra? The Best Buy spot from Crispin. Then again Crispin may go too weird for this mass audience of Bud-drinking orange-fingered Cheetos-gobblers.)

Anyhoo, there you have it folks. See you on Monday, after the Packers win.