Monday, March 30, 2009

Excuse me, is that a Reese's Pieces floating in your Stella?

I may be just a young pup (human), still getting my feet wet on Madison Avenue (Erie at Rush) as an ad man (lady), but this I know for certain: just because something is old doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead. And just because we may be a bunch of young, hipster advertising punks (nerds) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be respectful of the old and time-honored practices that helped to build this great industry we love so dearly. Cool old ad stuff can still be great –it’s on our shoulders to give it the time of day and make sure it can stay relevant and, well, cool. And great.

Maybe I’m a total sap (a definite possibility), but one of my all-time favorite marketing tactics is entertainment product integration. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always, always wanted to put together a campaign that utilized product placement. All discussions of payola aside, if you’re in advertising for the psychology and good-natured manipulation that inevitably lie at its core, and I think many good planners are, it’s hard not to love product placement. It’s an oldie and a goodie, and a favored topic in ad classes – plenty of good case studies to dissect and discuss. The Italian Job (launch of Mini Cooper) is one of my favorites (don’t talk to me about E.T. and the Reese’s Pieces; he totally creeps me out). Even when spoofed, the satire carries a certain amount of valuable buzz, like in Wayne’s World or Talladega Nights. And, if the buzz is loud enough, we’ve seen products actually born of spoofed placements, à la Forrest Gump and Bubba Gump Shrimp. When done right, product placement can be seamless, organic, seemingly perfect marketing. We want our consumer to build positive brand associations – what better way to demonstrate the association than by showing the product in glamorous, glittering action?

Despite my little love affair, I’ll be the first to admit that, given the nature of the beast, there is definitely room for product placement to be overdone, hokey, and just really bad. Can be painful, even, when not revamped for a forum like, say, our friend the internet. Everything intrinsic about the interactive space (and a good number of case studies) would indicate that this is a venue where, if nothing else, brands need to be genuine to stay alive. Entertainment via interwebs, also, did not kill the cat. Luckily for product-placement buffs everywhere, I’ve noticed some stellar videos popping up these days that are bringing new life to the sometimes-antiquated principles of product placement. Brands are massaging product placement and giving us something fresher, seemingly more focused on entertaining than marketing.

My friend Jon-Eric passed this along, and Clay beat me to the punch on posting (and did so much more concisely, I might add) so I’ll throw to him here, but I am loving what Stella Artois put out online to support their Smooth Originals product. The three short-form pieces have subtle nods to the product, and focus on the association and entertainment that they want to bring to the brand. It’s smooth, it’s French, it's digestible, and it’s hilarious. It’s old, and it’s new. My favorite of the three is below.

Simone says? For reals? Awesome. It’s my old friend product placement, only better.

In a time when it seems like old media is a dying art form, I think we are remiss not to look to the internet as the obvious way to help it be new again. And, as the hipster nerds who seem to be somewhat good at working the interwebs, it’s our task to do so, eh? Stuff like this shows me that we can honor the building blocks while being true to the times. So, cheers to the old, cheers to the new, and cheers to the ad men for bridging the gaps and keeping it real. For all y'all.