Advertising Is Not Entertainment


Advertising — whether print, radio, TV, or Internet — has one purpose: compel the target customers to immediately purchase the underlying product or service. That’s it. Any desire to entertain or win awards via advertising is naïve disregard for revenues and shareholders’ capital.

To wit: In February, DISH Network (NasdaqGS: DISH), at 13.8M subscribers and the USA’s #2 satellite-TV provider, launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign starring comedian Frank Caliendo, tasked to promote DISH’s products by impersonating President Bush, Al Pacino, John Madden, and others.

What connection there is between Caliendo’s comedy routines and selling products is beyond me — unless the product he’s selling is a DVD of his comedy routines. Yet, Jessica Insalaco, DISH’s chief marketing officer, opined in the campaign’s launch that Caliendo offers a fun way to tell customers about the benefits of DISH and its digital video-recorder services: “I think what people most remember are advertisements that are funny.”

People aren’t supposed to remember advertisements, Ms. Insalaco; they’re supposed to run out, call, or click to buy your products — ASAP. Yes, an ad can be entertaining, if appropriate for the product and targeted customer, but never entertainment. You have failed Marketing 101.

When I watch or hear a commercial, or look at a print ad, if it doesn’t talk to me, if I don’t feel personally moved (see “GutShare vs. Mindshare”), I will tune it out. I cannot tell you how many times I saw the Caliendo spots and couldn’t remember, 15 minutes later, whether he was representing DISH or DirecTV, teaching me anything special about his product, or just trying to make me laugh. This campaign was ill-conceived and a total failure.

One of DISH’s Commercials With Frank Caliendo

Confused and Unmotivated

I was not alone in being confused and unmotivated by DISH’s “entertainment” commercials. In a July 24, 2008, BusinessWeek article, Ron Grover gave a rundown on DISH’s falling revenues and fleeing customers. Grover quotes Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. (AB) analyst Craig E. Moffett:

Dish could shed at least 37,000 of its 13.8 million customers this quarter. That would be the first time a satellite-TV player has lost subscribers since the industry began its growth spurt a decade ago.

Had DISH’s ad campaign followed classical marketing principles — assuming its product is superior to those of DirecTV, TiVo, and Comcast — it could have avoided such a decline. Alas, in this age of soundbites, silly “reality shows,” and infotainment, there’s a belief that most people are so stupid that reaching them is possible only through perpetual entertainment. DISH fell into this trap, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Audience-Message Connection

Why is it that some public speakers put us to sleep while others hold us spellbound? Simple: the good ones have interesting, provocative, and inspiring messages to deliver (they know a priori which messages audiences will find interesting, provocative, and inspiring), and they know which phrases and styles will make them personally relate to those messages. Not taking the time to understand in advance the audience-message connection is sheer laziness.

The same principle applies to marketing products and services. A product has one of two objectives: solve a problem or make a wish come true. Accounting software solves a bookkeeping problem; an iPod makes the wish of being awash, untethered, in personally selected music come true. This is what the customers of those respective products will articulate. Each product, therefore, must be messaged accordingly.

Advertising, or messaging, a product requires knowing its objective and how its targeted customers will react to and benefit from owning it. Not taking the time to understand in advance the audience-message connection is sheer laziness.

Never confuse selling a product with evoking laughter. Advertising is not entertainment.
POSTSCRIPT #1: According to BusinessWeek (02.16.11), e*Trade’s famous talking-baby commercials are a dud (“One thing people don’t like to joke about is their own money.”)

POSTSCRIPT #2: Kmart’s Joe Boxer and Jingle Balls

POSTSCRIPT #3: Super Bowl Commercials Are a Waste of Money


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2008 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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