Last month, US Airways announced its plans to advertise on what it calls "motion sickness bags." To the lay person (and most kids), that's "barf bag." The announcement of this new killer mode of targeted advertising came on the heels of news from CBS that it plans to emboss eggs with the CBS logo and witty copy lines promoting appetizing programming like CSI.
Yes eggs-- 36 million of them. As in the ones you fry, scramble or make into omelets.
I wonder if a line like "Join us on Thursday to watch autopsies" will fit around an egg. More seriously, but no less disturbing to people who love the advertising business, they are considering lines like "Crack the Case This Thursday on CSI."
I am not sure which I find more sickening. Since I eat eggs more often than I get sick on planes, I think it's the egg advertising.
I make my living in the advertising business and am fully aware of the challenges that all advertisers and marketers face in trying to reach a busy and distracted audience that is consuming less traditional media (but apparently not fewer eggs) than before. But I also know that the main ingredients in the secret sauce of advertising are context and relevance. These two ingredients outweigh placement and creative in the recipe. It is also about making a connection and not just evoking a reaction.
Printing the words "Crack the Case" on an egg that gets "cracked" (get it?) fails in both context and relevance. A product like cholesterol-lowering Lipitor may have relevance but lacks in context, connection and definitely taste.
I'll bet somebody from the airline is now eager to pitch the barf bag placement to Listerine or the makers of Dramamine ("Don’t you wish you had taken Dramamine?"). They may get points for context and relevance, but what kind of connection are you making? If this is the makings of a good idea, how about in-hospital advertising that promotes prescription drugs to bed-ridden patients with ads on their ceilings?
The interactive equivalent to these ideas are much-maligned pop-ups, pop-unders and spyware-driven advertising. These things get reach, may be targeted, and may even yield a decent ROI, but they are intruders into personal space. And if that wasn't enough, consumers don't trust pop-up advertising, and a growing number of consumers wind up extending their distaste for pop-ups to the advertiser.
It has been more than a couple of years since the consumer rebellion against pop-up/under ads and spyware began, and consumers have won with the help of pop-up blockers and spyware removal software. But there is no comparable solution for blocking egg advertising-- except to stop eating eggs or boycott the purchase of branded eggs.
If CBS wants to take some cues from its own space, consider some engaging examples of online advertising done tastefully and within the proper boundaries by other media moguls like HBO and NBC. Both have done a great job of creating engaging and entertaining experiences to promote their programming for "Entourage," "The Sopranos" and "Law and Order Conviction."
HBO's online interview with super-agent Ari Gold and Google Maps' tour of the Sopranos' New Jersey stomping ground were fun, interesting, and added to the entertainment. NBC introduced the newest "Law and Order Conviction" series with free downloads of the pilot episode via iTunes. Again, all were fun, engaging, valuable to the audiences, and supported the marketing objectives. And they score high in context and relevance and connecting with the audience.
Not only is the concept of advertising on eggs and motion sickness bags similar to television product placements (which I could do without as well), they also illustrate advertisers' struggle to compel and engage audiences and they resort to gimmicks or situations where people can't easily opt-out (if they can opt-out at all). To those advertisers, I say: Please stop. Try harder. We have the tools and channels to reach consumers; we have the creative people to engage and connect with them; it's our job as advertising industry experts to put it all together and connect.
I will make it easy: If you want to reach me when I'm on a plane, advertise in the magazine, buy my headphones for a good movie, sponsor a podcast I might be listening to, or do some in-flight sampling. If you want to get me while I am eating breakfast, try CNBC or CNN, tastefully engaging online tactics, or the local paper.
Please just quit the eggs and barf bags or I might really get sick.