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Only Weak Advertisers Fold To Special Interest Ad Baiters.


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February 08, 2007

Only Weak Advertisers Fold To Special Interest Ad Baiters.

David Kiley

Special interest groups are making themselves heard about Super Bowl ads that offend them. Save me.

Taking a page from Bill O'Reilly's war against Christmas playbook, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sent a letter to General Motors complaining that a game ad featuring a story about an assembly line robot that commits suicide in a dream sequence after being fired from his job is offensive and insensitive.

So far, GM hasn?? caved to taking the ad off the air or off the Internet. And it's tough for the automaker not to do it. After all, it's not like the Foundation is an adversary you want to take on. It doesn't have a political agenda like the American Family Association, which is boycotting Ford for running ads in gay media.

The Foundation, which does good work, though, does have an agenda to get itself noticed whenever it can to drive awareness, nudge donations up and, if it can get GM to take the ad down, post a victory press release on its website and with the media.

The GM ad was constructed as a narrative story, like a movie. Does the Foundation get its press release machine rolling every time a network or cable station runs a movie with a suicide sequence in it? How about TV shows? Every time there is a suicide story line, does the network get a letter? The argument here is that the ad gives people the idea that suicide is an acceptable option for someone getting fired. Puhleeez. It's a car ad.

So why should an ad agency and advertiser creating a story get subjected to the PR treatment? Because GM, as a big company, is an easy target. Movie studios and boadcast networks are tougher to sway. And there is a long illustrious history of advertisers caving to special interest groups. That the Foundation is a pretty likable and worthy organization, unlike some others, though, shouldn't matter. Do we really think any suicides are going to be inspired by the site of this robot in a GM ad? Oy.

The GM robot ad scored pretty well with the viewing public. In the USA Today Ad Meter, it scored 18th highest with the audience out of almost 60 ads, and was the highest rated auto ad. ESPN.com ranked it "Best in Show," with 50% of respondents ranking it #1. Adbowl.com ranked it #9. The people have spoken about how much they liked the spot. It didn't make my top-five for the game. But I would rank it in the top-ten for sure.

Meantime, ultra-conservative corporation Mars folded like a spent candy wrapper in the face of complaints by The Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation about its Super Bowl ad that depicted two mechanics who ate a candy bar from each end, and met in the middle with an inadvertent kiss. Then, in the ad, the two alpha men, realizing what had happened, started acting all uncomfortable and began tearing out their chest hair in an attempt to act manly.

Memo to the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance: get a freaking sense of humor will ya? It's comedy. It was funny. I howled at the ad and replayed it twice. I also rated one of the best ads of the game. And it had nothing to do with any homo-erotic feelings I have for beer-bellied mechanics. For the record, my wife didn't think it was funny. But she doesn't like The Honeymooners or Laurel and Hardy either. But two male gay friends of mine thought it was hilarious. And they further though that that the Alliance was crazy.

Back to the strategy at hand. The Human Rights Campaign and the Alliance have parlayed this into TV appearances, press releases and media attention. That's what it's about. It?? not about indignation. It?? about media opps.

As an overweight man, or what radio TV personality Don Imus calls me on air when I?? a guest--A Fat Bastard, if I made a squawk about every time an ad, TV show or movie used a fat person as the centerpiece for a joke, I'd have given up my day job years ago to keep up with the correspondence.

We all complain about how lame and irrelevant ads are most of the time. We use our DVRs to skip over them. We complain about insipid sales pithes. If we nitpick every ad storyline, and cave into every special-interest complaint, I shudder to think how awful ads will really become in the future.

In short. Lighten up.

01:58 PM

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?? Super Bowl Advertisers? :: Special Interest Groups-2 from Strategic Public Relations

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Tracked on February 10, 2007 12:28 AM

Here's why GM should care -- as a middle-aged car enthusiast, all but one of the vehicles I have purchased in my life have been GMs. After that Super Bowl commercial, which I found in ill taste in multiple ways (and not at all funny), I won't be buying another GM. Sorry if that seems bleeding heart to you, but I can only vote with my dollars when it comes to teaching a business to be a little less jerky.

Posted by: Adam at February 8, 2007 04:42 PM

David,

I refer to your comments about Roehm. We want to connect with Roehm. Tell me how.

George Cooper

707-965-2635

cmsc950@aol.com

CYC Associates

Posted by: George Cooper at February 9, 2007 03:41 AM

I have been laughing to myself since the Super Bowl regarding the GLAAD stance on that hilarious commercial. I thought the candy bar ad was more directed at macho stereotypes than at homosexuals. I know I'm not the only woman on Earth who sees great humor in Laurel and Hardy or even (gasp!) the Three Stooges; and I am sure there are more like me who who thought that ad was just as it appeared, a poke at men in general.

When it comes to the emotion evoking robot ad: I wasn't left thinking about people who suicide in general; I was actually left pondering how many real-life GM workers who, displaced by robots, did commit suicide after losing their jobs. I was also left wondering why GM would even take a chance of making that connection. Not very smart advertising if you ask me. Doesn't make a difference one way or the other though, I won't buy GM cars because I think they are poorly made, not because of some ad run on Super Bowl Sunday. After all was said and done, I did admire the advertiser's ability to put so much human emotion into a hunk of metal and was relieved to discover the robot was only dreaming. At least the advertisers got that part right.

I think you're correct David, everyone needs to lighten up. What we all shouldn't lighten up about is the constant chipping away at our personal liberties in the name of being politically correct.

Posted by: Karyn at February 9, 2007 12:12 PM

"Kiley won the Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Industry Journalism in 2001 for Getting The Bugs Out. He was elected the 2005-2006 President of the International Motor Press Association. A graduate of Fordham University"

The above is excerpted from the BusinessWeek bio of David Kiley. Appears that his alliance and/or allegiance to the US automobile industry has clouded his Jesuit education, tradition and philosophy. A gentle reminder, Mr. Kiley, that the Jesuit motto, "Man for others", would clearly demand a much different response and viewpoint than what was presented in your editorial.

Posted by: Michael Skiendzielewski at February 9, 2007 01:49 PM

GM artfully showed itself as a heartless corporation that doesn't understand the American workplace. GM's lack of awareness on job security and the amount of stress this puts on people is remarkable. Especially when General Motors robotically slashes employees and capacity. Keep on shrinking General Motors because the people you don't care about won't care about you or your products.

Posted by: bjm128 at February 9, 2007 04:29 PM

As a middle-aged car enthusiast, I've never purchased any GM vehicles. After that Super Bowl commercial, which I found to be funny in multiple ways I will specifically be buying a GM vehicle. I can only vote with my dollars when it comes to teaching other businesses to be more funny.

See how that works. They lost one, they won one. It's one thing to have a bad experience buying a car, or product, then put your line in the sand and say I WON'T SHOP WITH THEM AGAIN. However, it's silly to base your purchasing on ONE mildly funny or mildly unfunny ad (whichever way you lean.) If you are so quick to drop the company it's pretty obvious there are already other problems with your relationship with them, so I think your marketing-only decision is pretty disengenuous. I don't care if the 2007 Mustang was only marketed using necropheliac sea monkeys, I'd still want one. A good vehicle is much more than just a brand, if you're buying solely on brand, keep your expectations low.

These companies know that they don't live and die by one ad but they still approach advertising with some trepidation. So I think it's great when they take some chances. Whether offensive or not, it's better than most of the garbage that makes onto the tv. Lighten up.

Posted by: Chris Newton at February 13, 2007 12:40 PM

I'd have to say I was kinda alarmed at the scenario GM presented us in the superbowl ad. First of all, who would want to buy a car from someone who treats employees like that? Fire them for dropping a bolt? Second who would want to buy from a company so thoughtless and ignorant? I don't think anyone who has been touched by suicide in someway would have looked at the commercial and chuckled it away. It was poor judgement. What do you think Tony Dungy's reaction would have been on seeing it? Probably not laughter, but thinking "You A**holes". He was IN the superbowl the ad was playing for. An advertiser who knows nothing about football, but places a superbowl ad seems pretty campy to me. GM doesn't seem to be doing well these days, and the judgment displayed by their choice of ad might tell why. Oh, and regardless of the subject matter, the ad wasn't even funny!

Posted by: chris at February 13, 2007 03:28 PM

When it comes to the emotion evoking robot ad: I wasn't left thinking about people who suicide in general; I was actually left pondering how many real-life GM workers who, displaced by robots, did commit suicide after losing their jobs. I was also left wondering why GM would even take a chance of making that connection. Not very smart advertising if you ask me. Doesn't make a difference one way or the other though, I won't buy GM cars because I think they are poorly made, not because of some ad run on Super Bowl Sunday. After all was said and done, I did admire the advertiser's ability to put so much human emotion into a hunk of metal and was relieved to discover the robot was only dreaming. At least the advertisers got that part right

Posted by: supernedio at February 23, 2007 04:14 AM

please explain about opensource????????????

Posted by: gwendolynrwobig at February 24, 2007 02:22 PM

Yeah, what is with all this political corectness BS? Now we can't make fun of lamer depresso's, fags, AIDS, cripples, lard asses, cancer victims, school shooting victims, every thing else that happens to anyone... waaaah waaaah waaaah.

Posted by: Teddy at February 28, 2007 08:58 AM


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