Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: The Year in Badvertising

Compulsory year-in-review content is reaching a climax on the web right now, but at least there are plenty of entertaining reads, including our favorite genre: “worst ads of the year” articles.

Wired takes a look at “Outrageously Annoying” tech-centered ads, with embedded videos for each. Certainly, the Microsoft spots are an easy target of scorn. The success of Windows has never been driven by compelling TV ads (some of the Windows 7 launch notwithstanding).

However, as for the rest of the Wired list, we’d classify about half of it as closer to amusing—and actually pretty effective. For example, the Wired crew kind of missed the point of the GE locomotive piece, a lighthearted complement to GE’s strong imagination at work brand.

Meanwhile, has its own rundown of 2009 “badvertising” encompassing a broader array of consumer products. This one has more thumbs-down that we agree with, especially complaints about the Audi Q5 “Identity Theft at School” spot. There, the supposedly “unmistakable” Audi actually looks just like all the other crossover SUVs, but with black paint and some chrome trim. Come on, Audi, if you’re going to claim a real product differentiation, it’s got to be more than a paint job.

Bonus points go to this current, creepy Palm Pre campaign for making both the Wired and Slate lists:

Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, we haven’t seen any “worst of 2009 web advertising” pieces. It could be because so many of them are so irritating and invasive that critics don’t know where to start.

This is a key challenge to keep in mind, as online advertising continues to grab a bigger share of marketing budgets. Web ads may be a cheaper and more targeted way of getting in front of more people, but it isn’t easy to find a balance between producing an effective ad and driving people away.

If all you’re doing is aggravating Internet surfers, then you may be better off making a mildly annoying TV spot—even one that makes one of these lists.

Friday, December 18, 2009

You've Got Fail?

AOL Tries Rebranding

With hopes to revive the faltering brand that was once an Internet and technology pioneer, AOL has adopted a new brand identity as the company parts ways with Time Warner.

AOL now aims to be seen as a world-class content provider akin to the New York Times or, BBC, according to Maureen Sullivan, Chief of Staff to the CEO, Tim Armstrong for AOL in a recent interview with BrandWeek.

Will it work?

On the surface, the move seems an obvious choice. AOL has been about a lot more than their Internet access business for many years; the old name and Running Man icon was pigeonholing the companies’ appeal and purpose in a way that no longer applied. AOL had out grown its ISP product line and was looking to offer loyal consumers more. Meanwhile, its website content,, already reflected the wider offer that the company was casting. So bringing it all in line under the revitalized logo AOL provided consistency across the mission, actions and communications of the company. It made perfect sense.But that’s not to say the overhaul was an easy thing to do. Brand and name changes take a lot of time, money and guts. The move also puts AOL into more obvious, direct competition with counterparts like, MSN and Yahoo!.
As times change, technology companies know they must continue to evolve, as must their marketing communications efforts. The AOL team had the vision and will to undergo this transition and celebrate it as a positive step forward for the future.

And for those disappointed to see the Running Man go, Sullivan hints that he will play a part in future corporate branding initiatives. Until then, the Running Man must take a seat in the back.