At times like this, I’m embarrassed to call myself a marketeer

A couple of days ago, Bruce forwarded me this Slate Ad Report Card by Seth Stevenson about the incredibly annoying HeadOn TV ad above.  Just now, I noticed the post is more than a year old; I missed the whole HeadOn phenomenon last year, though apparently it’s back this year (obviously I don’t watch much TV).  I promise you the article is hilarious even now.  As a marketing person, here’s what I especially love:  the comments by Dan Charron, the HeadOn VP of sales and marketing who is quoted in the article, clearly smack of marketing bullshit.   

  1. We tested it in focus groups.  My first reaction was “Uh-huh.  If I had a buck for every time I’ve heard this one….”  This common assertion is impossible to prove wrong, and hey, what constitutes a focus group anyway?  You might envision panels of carefully screened consumers in a facilitator-led discussion discreetly observed by company execs through a two-way mirror.  But why not a group of your buds after a few drinks on Friday night?  Aren’t they part of the target audience?  If we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they did actually conduct focus groups, what was tested?  According to a recent quote from Charron in Ad Age, they test which ad is most memorable.  The Ad Age article goes on at length about the focus group testing, so maybe I’m just cynical.
  2. We spent tens of millions of dollars on this campaign.  Okay, this is almost true.  According to TNS Media Intelligence (as quoted in Ad Age), the company spent $15 million in measured media in 2006.  The Ad Age article says Mr. Charron claims the product’s overall ad budget will reach $70 million in 2007. This seems a little surprising considering that it logged $6.5 million in sales last year, according to Information Resources Inc. (as quoted in Ad Age.) though Mr. Charron points out that the $6.5M doesn’t include WalMart, which is undoubtedly a very large customer.  Companies routinely exaggerate numbers like these, sometime other way around (e.g. “we spent only $500 on PR and got $5M of attention”)

In the Slate article, Charron also claims that the ad, which was produced in house, is not deliberately campy – hmmm.  Of course, with the benefit of an additional year of YouTube behind us, it now seems very likely the whole idea of the campaign was to become a viral hit.  And I give them credit for a gutsy, if annoying, strategy that stands out.  I just don’t want to work for them.

BTW, I didn’t link to the Ad Age article because they will only show you articles that you pay for.


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