Season 5: February 2011 Archives

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Season Five: AOP Goes To The Movies

Airs Saturday Feb. 26th and Thursday March. 3rd

This week, Age of Persuasion Goes To The Movies.

Just in time for the Oscars, we look at great movie marketing, and talk about the landmark movies that completely altered the way Hollywood sells its films (Yes, one of them involves a shark, but the movie that made the shark possible has a little karate in it). We'll also feature some of the most inventive movie ads ever done, and trace the history of movie trailers - which, by the way, were originally created to drive people OUT of theatres, not into them. It's true. Hope you'll join us.

And pass the popcorn.

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All of the TV commercials and print elements we referred to in the episode, as well as some bonus materials, are below. Enjoy. Movie trailers have a very interesting history in Hollywood. Some of the best directors created incredibly inventive trailers over the years. Here's the one Alfred Hitchcock did for The Birds. Surprisingly, he uses humour to sell what is essentially a horror film.

The genius of this trailer lies in the fact it wasn't just a pleasant lecture on birds, it was a cleverly written argument explaining why birds would want to wreak revenge on mankind - setting up the premise of his film.

Going back in history, one of the first movie posters ever designed for a film was for the 1895 black & white silent comedy titled, L'Arroseur Arrosé. Shown below:

L'Arroseur Arrosé 2.jpg

The first documented movie trailer was shown in 1913 for an adventure serial called The Adventures of Kathlyn. Unfortunately lost to the sands of time, the series was the first to use cliffhangers at the end of the episodes, imploring audiences to "See next week's thrilling chapter!":

Adventures of Kathlyn 1913.jpg

Studios found themselves too busy shooting movies to create movie posters and trailers, so in 1919, three enterprising admen formed a company called The National Screen Service to take over the job. Soon, all the studios were using NSS for trailers and posters, and continued to do so well into the 70s:

National Screen Service poster.jpg

The problem with the NSS was that it hit on a formula, and many of the trailers started to look and sound alike. That led to some directors demanding to create their own trailers. David O. Selznick did just that for his movie extravaganza, Gone With The Wind. He not only wanted audiences to see a unique trailer, he also wanted them to know the movie was a faithful adaptation of the best-selling book:

Director Otto Preminger also created a highly unusual trailer for his 1959 film, Anatomy of A Murder. He actually used the courtroom from the movie to "swear in" all his actors:

Jump ahead to 1971. An unlikely movie called Billy Jack would go on to change movie marketing forever. Director/Writer Tom Laughlin sued Warner Brothers for "misdistribution" and won, forcing the studio to make huge television ad buys for the trailer. Laughlin then block-booked theatres to keep the movie playing until the marketing had a chance to work. Prior to this, most movie trailers were only shown in theatres. (By the way, the first kick you see in this trailer so enthralled me as a 12 year-old kid, I became a lifelong martial artist as a result. I still get goosebumps watching it!):

The resulting success of the Billy Jack marketing strategy made another blockbuster possible - Jaws. Universal spent millions on TV advertising, and created such a frenzy, Jaws became the first movie to reach $100 million in domestic box office receipts:

Both the trailer and the movie poster are considered two of the best ever done:

jaws 2 poster.jpg

Jaws remained the highest grossing film of all time - until this movie entered our galaxy:

Star Wars was a movie nobody wanted, and Lucas had a hard time getting theatres to show it. A bit of a... I dunno... mistake in hindsight. It would go on to earn over $1 billion dollars.

Skip ahead to 1999, and the Blair Witch Project. Rumoured to have been shot for just $60 thousand dollars, it eventually grossed over $248 million worldwide.

This movie was amazing because it was mostly marketed online - using a website and a pseudo-documentary. Remember - it achieved that kind of success while pre-dating Facebook, YouTube and Twitter:

To promote The Simpson's Movie, eleven 7-Eleven stores were converted into Kwick-E-Marts and even sold Simpson's products like Buzz Cola and Krusty-Os cereal:


Paranormal Activity is a 2007 film marketed as a social media experiment. Paramount Studios wanted to see if major buzz could be created for a little known, low-budget movie with no stars.

So they teamed up with a high-profile blogger, staged free midnight screenings in eight cities, and put computers in the lobbies to encourage patrons to Twitter and Facebook about it as they left the theatre.

Rumoured to have been shot for only $15 thousand dollars, Paranormal Activity created such a buzz it went on to gross over $100 million.

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Season 5: Marketing the Unpleasant

Airs Saturday Feb. 19th and Thursday Feb. 24th This week on the Age of Persuasion, we feature an encore presentation of "Marketing the Unpleasant."

It's a look at how the advertising industry markets those very "delicate" products in our lives; like itch creams, laxatives, yeast infection remedies, feminine hygiene goods, and the granddaddy of them all - death. Collectively, they represent one of the toughest categories in the advertising business, because these products address the intensely personal issues in our lives. Issues we don't share with anybody, except the marketers who provide relief. All of which doesn't make it an easy category to work on, just a very interesting one. Hope you'll join us. And nice to see your rash is clearing up.

Listen to this episode as streaming audio (runs 26:30) Or subscribe to the podcasts by RSS or by iTunes.

All of the TV commercials and print elements we referred to in the episode, as well as some bonus materials, are below. Enjoy.

One of the toughest categories in the advertising world is personal care products - and in particular - the products that address the intensely personal issues in our lives.

Like jock-itch creams, laxatives, rash ointments, yeast infection remedies, feminine hygiene goods and douches. Yet, because this is a multi-million dollar category, advertisers and their ad agencies take it all very seriously.

What follows are the TV spots and print ads that we referred to in our "Marketing the Unpleasant" episode, along with a few interesting extra bonus commercials.

First, we talked about how AIDS advertising was initially an awkward assignment in ad agencies, but as time went on, AIDS/HIV became a more accepted topic, and advertising embraced the challenge of communicating the issues.

We played an interesting radio campaign from Israel, called "Doubt" where they ran the same radio commercial on every station in the country at the very same time one morning, so you couldn't escape it.

And that was the idea - that "doubt" never leaves you if you've had unprotected sex. Here is a TV commercial from that same campaign that ran on International Aids Day in Israel in 2008:


These spots aired on one day only, and the number of visitors to the AIDS taskforce website increased by 56%, and HIV testing increased by 41%, making December 2008 the highest HIV test period ever in Israel.

Selling death is a touchy subject. Wal-Mart started quietly offering caskets and funeral-related items on their website about 18 months ago. So not only can you "Live Affordably" but you can now "Die Cheaply."

Walmart Coffin Page.png

We also played a somewhat surprising commercial for the Golden Gate Funeral Home. Here it is:

The problem with marketing private, personal products is to make the on-camera dialogue seem natural. Not much dialogue usually happens in real life around these issues, so manufacturing it is always dicey. Here's a typical commercial in this category trying to sound natural:

As you heard in the episode, selling menstrual products has been a part of Madison Avenue for almost 100 years. Here is the way sanitary napkins - or rather, towels - were first advertised back in the 1920s:

southalls print ad.jpeg

None other than Walt Disney produced a film in 1946 to explain menstruation to young women, titled "The Story of Menstruation." Note that all the credits are male:

Many people think most menstrual commercials are written by men - which is not true. The one campaign most cited when this charge is made is the "Have a happy period" from Always:

Viagra broke new ground in this delicate personal products category. With itch creams, laxatives, wart removers and yeast infection remedies, the most they could promise was relief.

But Viagra had a much more motivating benefit - sex. Canadian pharmaceutical regulations prohibited Viagra from saying what the drug actually does in commercials (same goes for all prescribed medications) but Viagra's ad agency didn't let that small detail stop them.

They embraced they couldn't say what Viagra did, and created amazing work. Here's the launch commercial:

Viagra has had a long history of great ads. Here's one of my favourites, called "Golfer":

It was AIDS/HIV advertising that first opened the conservative broadcasting doors, and helped the general public become more accepting of condom commercials. Here's a very funny Durex Condom spot:

Here's a bonus spot we didn't have time for on the show - it's a very daring, highly conceptual, highly creative condom commercial that made a little noise:

The "personal" care category is one that rarely uses celebrities, because it's difficult to find a star who is willing to talk about their, say, constipation. Of course, that didn't stop Wilt Chamberlain's mother from talking about it:

That's the thing with marketing the unpleasant - you can always count on your Mom to tell it like it is.

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Season 5: Even More Remarkable Brands.

This week on the Age of Persuasion, we feature our annual look at Five Remarkable Brands. They may not be category leaders or even things you can buy, but they are fascinating. They include; A certain scientist who is such a powerful brand that he has displaced other great thinkers, a company that makes our world a little more colourful, a comic book that has enthralled teenagers for over 70 years, a honey of a product that was born in the back of a pick-up truck, and the most Emmy-nominated TV show in broadcast history. Best of all, they're not only remarkable brands, they're remarkable stories as well.

Listen to this episode as streaming audio (runs 26:30)
Subscribe to the podcast by RSS or by iTunes and you will receive it as soon as it's available.

All of the TV commercials and print elements we referred to in the episode, as well as some bonus materials, are below. Enjoy.

Physicists for a long time studied a phenomenon called: "The gravitationally completely collapsed object." Nobody cared about this phenomenon... except physicists.

Then one day, somebody renamed it, "The Black Hole."

Suddenly, the whole world was interested. The new name changed how people thought. Those two words, for all intents and purposes, branded the phenomenon.

Black Hole.jpeg

While not all remarkable brands dominate their categories in terms of marketing share or revenues, they certainly can dominate when it comes to recognition.

Can you name these famous scientists?


Or this good looking fellow:

Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen.jpeg

Or this groundbreaker?

Jonas Salk.jpeg

Or this guy:

einstein photo.jpeg

Ah, you were able to recognize Albert Einstein. That's because he is a remarkable brand. As a matter of fact, Einstein is such a unique brand, he has displaced many other great thinkers.

(By the way, the other scientists above are Edwin Hubble, who discovered galaxies other than our own, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, who invented the X-Ray, and Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine.)

But you have to admit, Einstein had a personality.

Einstein Sticking tongue out.jpeg

In 1885, Edwin Binney and his cousin C. Harold Smith took control of the Peekskill Chemical Company, re-named it Binney & Smith, and began manufacturing slate pencils for schools.

Binney & Smith.jpg

That put them in the school supply business, and in 1903, they created one of the world's most remarkable brands:

The Crayola Crayon.

The first box had eight vibrant colours:

Original Crayola 8 box.jpeg

Then, over the years, came the 48-colour box, followed by the massive 64-colour box:

Crayola was an instant hit, and has had an enormous impact on children for the past 100 years. In recognition of this beloved brand, the company was honoured with a postage stamp in 1996:

Crayola stamp.jpg

Today, Crayola has 99% brand name awareness in North America.

All of which is to say that Crayola is a remarkable brand.

In 1939, MLJ Magazines was established and they began publishing Pep Comics. One of those comics called Archie struck a chord with teens in 1941. Here's a photo of the three very happy founders in 1943:

1943 the original MLJ.jpg

Founder John Goldwater (above right) was inspired by the Andy Hardy movie series of the 1940s, starring a freshly scrubbed Mickey Rooney:

In no time, Archie comics was a hit. Here is the very first Archie comic book (worth a fortune if you've got one):


The comic was so popular that an Archie Radio Series ran from 1943-53. Here is a print advertisement for the show:

Archie Talks!.jpeg

Archie's popularity kept growing through the 1950s with the radio show, and in 1968, they had another re-birth with a television cartoon series:

The cartoon even spawned a make-believe singing group that had a number one hit on Billboard:

For over 70 years, Archie has thrilled teenagers without every having to resort to overt sex, violence or profanity, and has still managed to sell over 1.5 billion comics in a dozen foreign languages right around the world.

That is a remarkable brand.

Another fascinating brand is Burt's Bees, which was founded by beekeeper Burt Shavitz and a divorced, unemployed mother of two, Roxanne Quimby.

Burt's Bees founder Quimby and Burt.jpeg

They began by creating candles out of Burt's beeswax, and before they knew it, an amazing company was born:

Burt's Bees Logo.jpeg

In 2004, Quimby sold 80% of the company for $173 million dollars.

Proving that brands are valuable. And remarkable brands are very valuable.

Our final remarkable brand began in 1975.

It has the most Emmy nominations of any television show ever created. And every Saturday night, living rooms across North America hear these familiar words around 11:30pm:

Throughout good seasons and not-so-good seasons, Saturday Night Live has continued to be the hilarious, acerbic, fearless voice of our times. You could call them an institution now. And by the way, I've always loved the way SNL parodies my industry.

Who could forget the "Change Bank" commercial:

Long live the remarkable brand that is Saturday Night Live.