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Season Five.
"Ask Terry Again"

Airs Saturday June 25th and Thursday June 30th, 2011.

It's our final episode of the 2011 season. This week, we turn The Age of Persuasion over to listeners. It's our annual "Ask Terry" show. We asked you to submit any questions you had about the advertising world, and you responded with a record amount of very interesting, very insightful ones that touch on subjects like negative political advertising, why there are so many bad local commercials, and what do background actors really say when their lips move.

Join us for some surprising answers.

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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.

Back in 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon was running against Senator John F. Kennedy for the Presidency of the United States.

The previous President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was not eligible to run again. For his two previous victories, Eisenhower had employed advertising agency BBDO. So it was only natural that Vice President Nixon would also use the agency.v At one point during the campaign, Nixon was in the hospital with a knee injury, but he summoned the executives from BBDO to his bedside for an important meeting.

When they got there, Nixon asked the following question: "Why do you suppose Kennedy wants to debate me on television?"

There was a big pause, followed by a silence.

When Nixon pressed for an answer, one of the BBDO executives answered: "Sir, women are going to decide this election, and Kennedy is good-looking. You're not."

Funny thing about questions, you don't always want to hear the answers.

Today, we turn the show over to you, good listeners.

We've asked you to send in any questions you might have about advertising, and we received a record number. Some were thought-provoking, many that were insightful, some were angry and lots were funny.

So sit back as I try to answer some them to the best of my ability.

And we're hoping that, unlike Mr. Nixon, you just might enjoy the answers...

So let's begin today's show with a question we received online from someone whose Twitter handle is MimeRifle:

Hmmm, think he has anything against mimes?

Anyway, he asks:

"Why do small business owners insist on doing their own commercials, even when they turn out so atrociously?"


Do you mean like this?

Or this...

Well MimeRifle, there are a number of reasons why that happens.

First, there is the cost factor. The actors, sets, equipment and crew required for a television shoot are very expensive. I asked a television production company what the cost was to just get a typical crew to the set:

Answer: Anywhere from $50K to $200K depending on the complexity of the idea.

That's before you start shooting any footage. And if you're on a sound stage, that means you have to rent that stage, then build sets. If you're shooting on location, then you need to rent that location, and get all the location trucks, crew and equipment there.

Then, once you have shot the commercial, it needs to go into post-production. Add another $50K.

Then the actors have to be paid. The highest rate is for a lead actor with lines, the lowest for an extra with no lines.

By the way, Todd Gale asked us what background actors actually say when their lips are moving. And wouldn't it confuse deaf people who lip-read? So I asked Andy Crosby, owner of Sparks Productions. Andy's company shoots many of the commercials you see on TV.

Andy said all background extras are instructed to mouth fake words. That way their voices don't interfere with the lead actor.

But Andy said, now that you've mentioned it Todd, he will now insist that all background actors mouthing fake words must say "Use Sparks Productions for all your commercial needs."

All in all, making a TV commercial is an expensive proposition.

That's one reason.

Another is that many business owners believe that nobody can sell their product like they can. And sometimes a business owner is a highly persuasive TV presenter. Sometimes a product, in order to be believable, has to be presented by the owner, or inventor.

Dyson comes to mind:

Here's another popular question:

Arwen2 asks via Twitter: "How do we get rid of election attack ads?"

Maybe the real question is this: Do they work?

Answer: Unfortunately, yes.

The reality is they are highly effective. In the US, the attack ads against Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis greatly impaired his chances:

In Canada, there were attack ads against Liberal leader Stephane Dion:

And most recently, attack ads against new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, essentially neutralized him well before voters went to the booth:

The Conservatives won an overwhelming majority, leaving Liberals with their worst showing in years.

So if you're waiting for negative political ads to go away soon, don't hold your breath.

Lowrenzo posted a very interesting question on our Age of Persuasion website:

He asks: "Which single advertising campaign had the biggest impact on the success of a brand or product ever?"

Good question.

Any advertising that starts from a ground zero proposition and catapults the brand to a number one status has to fall in that category.

A perfect example is the famous campaign for Miss Clairol, launched in 1956.

The famous "Does she... or doesn't she?" campaign for Clairol hair colouring convinced an entire nation of women that it was okay to dye their hair:

Does She or Doesn't She Clairol .jpg

In those days, hair colouring was a taboo subject. Only Hollywood stars, and streetwalkers, did it. Yet this campaign, with its slightly naughty "Does She... Or Doesn't She?" slogan propelled Clairol sales 413% higher in only 6 years.

Not only that, it influenced over 60% of all adult women to colour their hair - to this day.

Not many campaigns can claim that kind of success.


In the mid 50s, Chicago ad agency Leo Burnett landed an assignment from client Philip Morris for a cigarette brand called Marlboro.

Marlboro was a "ladies" cigarette. But as a women's brand, it wasn't selling well. So Philip Morris asked Burnett to re-position the brand to become a man's cigarette. In the advertising world, it would go down as "one of the riskiest decisions ever made."

So Leo Burnett chose the most masculine image in America.

The cowboy.

With that, they created the Marlboro Man.

In only 30 days, Marlboro became the number one male brand in a New York test market.

By the time the Marlboro Man went national in 1955, sales soared to $5 billion, a 3,241% increase over 1954.

Even with the release in 1957 of the first article in Reader's Digest linking lung cancer to smoking, the Marlboro Man rung up sales of $20 billion that same year alone.

It not only took a completely feminine product and made it a male product, it become the symbol of masculinity.

Then there's my beloved Volkswagen campaign. Which I think is the greatest advertising campaign ever done.

In the late 1950s, sales of the quirky little German car were marginal at best. Then Doyle Dane Bernbach landed the account.

The ads taught the industry how to use humour as a powerful selling tool:

VW 1966-wilt-chamberlain.jpg

The ugly little VW beetle sold 120,000 out of a total of 614,000 imported cars. Which was incredible.

Then Detroit introduced its own subcompact cars, and imports dropped to only 340,000 cars - but VW sales still increased.

By 1967, import sales bounced back to 700,000, and Volkswagen sold 430,000 of them. It remained the number one imported car for years.

And the VW is still loved to this day.

Which I maintain was due, mostly, to one of the greatest advertising campaigns of all time.

Geopio asks on our CBC website:

"What happened to jingles? Could they return?"

Excellent question.

Jingles have been such a big, important part of advertising since the advent of commercial radio in the 1920s. They are incredibly sticky:

Remember these:

And this great tune for the Discovery Channel:

It could be argued that the advertising industry has never created a method as effective as jingles to get people to remember a brand.

The last great gasp of the jingle was in the 1980s.

Music has always been a big part of advertising, but "jingles" in their truest sense have all but disappeared.

Could they make a comeback?

I say yes.

The pendulum always seems to swing back, and it's swung away from jingles for over 20 years now.

It might be time again.

Damon Scott asks on our AOP Facebook page:

"What was your take on the Geico caveman commercials? What is the history of that type of advertising where the subject matter seems to be memorable, but completely unrelated to the brand?"

Well Damon, let's play one of the very first commercials from that campaign:

Now, let's analyze the idea.

Geico wanted viewers to know that handling their insurance needs online at Geico.com was so easy, anyone could do it.

Even an underdeveloped Neanderthal could figure it out.

The humor they overlaid on the "so easy" idea was the notion that the campaign insulted cavemen - that there were a couple of cavemen still around, functioning in society, and the Geico campaign offended them.

It was pure comedy:

So, on one hand, you could argue that cavemen have nothing to do with insurance.

But on the other hand, the strategy was to let people know that Geico's website was dead simple to use. Now, that message isn't particularly earth-shattering. But it is important for people to know. So the advertising agency created a television idea using overly sensitive cavemen to get attention.

Remember, the first job of a commercial is to get noticed.

An advertiser can't sell anything to anybody if nobody notices their advertising.

Remember the "Gorilla" ad for Cadbury Dairy Milk?

You could easily say that a gorilla pounding a drum kit has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate bars.

Cadbury Dairy Milk was a long time UK confectionary leader, but sales plateaued for a decade, and then started to decline. So their British advertising agency came up with the Gorilla idea.

Results: Sales went up 9% for the entire 12 weeks the spot was on air -after 10 years of flat and declining sales.

The Gorilla drummed with unabashed pleasure. The underlying benefit and strategy for Cadbury Dairy Milk is "Joy."

The Gorilla had nothing to do with chocolate bars, and everything to do with pleasure.

This is my point here: Sometimes the idea is connected to the product, and sometimes the idea is connected to the benefit.

There is a long history of that thinking in the advertising industry.

A caveman has nothing to do with insurance, but a connection can be made to the benefit - which is a website that is so easy to use, a prehistoric man could figure it out.

Recently, Geico reached a new milestone with 10 million policy holders, and now has assets of $28 billion. The caveman has been a huge success.

In 2008, the Caveman was voted America's favourite advertising icon of the year and was put in the Advertising Walk of Fame.

The Caveman, still perturbed with GEICO for its "So easy, a caveman could do it" slogan, did not attend the award ceremony...

As we mentioned up top, this is the last episode of the CBC season for Age of Persuasion.

Thanks for listening. And for sending us notes and emails all year. We love to hear from you.

See you in January!