12 kinds of ads

July 25, 2007

I recently read a Slate article about an attempt to categorize commercial advertising by Donald Gunn of Leo Burnett. It was done over 20 years ago, but I ask:

  • Do these categories still hold true today? In all global markets?
  • Which categories work in the general FLOSS paradigm and which don’t translate?
  • Which categories specifically may work well for KDE’s target market and which don’t?
  • For your portion of KDE, how have you “advertised” your project to others? Does this list give any new ideas?

Here’s a summary of Donald’s findings:

  • Demo: A visual demonstration of the product’s capabilities. Think iPhone commercials or recent screen casts in KDE. Straightforward.
  • “Show the need or problem”: The premise is to begin with a problem or issue for a consumer. Then present the product and the solution. “Itchy throat? Runny nose? Haaaa–CHOO! You need Wade’s Magical Health Tonic and Elixir!”
  • Symbol/analogy: Use a metaphor or simile with the “need or problem” category above to make a more sophisticated presentation. This one is ubiquitous today with cheap CGI. From elephants trampling mud on your clean kitchen floors to talking kittens, many commercials set up a situation and then relay it back to an issue in your life and how their product/service helps. A CGI nose that wanders about day-to-day life miserable encountering problems only to eventually have a cute female CGI nose hand him some of Wade’s Magical Health Tonic and Elixir – making him feel better so they can walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand.
  • Comparison: How your product is better than the competition’s. “Why is our Ford Taurus better than a Mercedes? Because we have a bigger trunk and cupholders!!! Why pay extra?!?! Damned overcharging Germans!”
  • Exemplary story: Tell a story or set up a situation when an event unfolds where you’re glad you have the particular product/service handy. Another subtle take on the “show the need” category. But here you’re giving a natural everyday situation: An overworked mother gets ready to take her kids to their balls games after dinner, but one of them has a cold. She doesn’t have time for this added stress, so she goes to the bathroom cabinet and gets some of Wade’s Magical Health Tonic and Elixir. Later the children are seen healthy and running around. The mother sighs relief, knowing she got through yet another depressing and tedious day.
  • “Benefit causes”: A convoluted scenario is created where the consumer realizes the situation is due to the power/effects of the product. “Hey, this guy got to the hotel with all his luggage feeling fine, but his friend only has a small bag and is really thirsty. Why? Cause the smart guy is driving a super-awesome Ford Taurus with cupholders and a big trunk; his stupid friend bought the overpriced Mercedes. Damned overcharging Germans!”
  • Presenter/Testimonial: Have archetype that you trust, like a neighbor or a friendly old lady give a testimonial. Or maybe Wade Olson is in an official looking lab coat with some test tubes and beakers telling you about his Magical Health Tonic and Elixir (snake oil).
  • Ongoing characters/celebrities: Find a character that the public responds well to, and keep using them to create ongoing stories and familiarity. Like Jared from Subway or the phone tech guy from Verizon or Joe Isuzu. Or…our ever-popular Gearheads.
  • Exaggerated analogy: Really, really oversell what sell what your product/service. Look at that crazy guy racing jet airplanes and lifting up cars because he dropped his wallet underneath. How can he do all that? Ahhh…he’s using Wade’s Magical Health Tonic and Elixir!
  • Associated Imagery: Who are the people you identify with and want to be associated with? A coffee shop full of supermodels typing away on their laptops. Panning around: Holy shit, every single one is using KDE! Who knew? (You knew).
  • Unique Personality Property: What is special about this product? What is unique and how can I convey its Unique Selling Proposition manifested in 30 seconds?
  • Parody: Popular today because people want to laugh and be entertained if they HAVE to watch commercials. Take a well known idea/concept/situation that people recognize or identify with. Make them laugh, then put your product name at the end. Hell, most commercials today have absolutely nothing to do with the product, it’s all about making the viewer “feel good” and associate that with the brand. “Look, these crazy squirrels are doing all sorts of funny this in the supermarket. Man, those squirrels sure do crazy things! Ha look – one is balancing on a watermelon. Hilarious!” Then the final screen shows “Ford Taurus: Half the cost and twice the cupholders.”

As you can tell, these are not incredibly unique and different concepts – getting 12 was a bit of a stretch. But are there other options for FLOSS and KDE? TV commercials as they relate to OSS = interesting. With more multimedia available and expected by people, and shorter and shorter attention spans, how to make KDE stand out? The 30-second commercial/elevator pitch comes into play. Is telling people/consumers/viewers of the reputed “technological superiority of the Unix operating system” going to do it? (rhetorical bikeshedding)


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