Tag Archives: advertising

How Chevrolet Made Me Cry By Not Promoting a Sales Event

I cried while watching football. No, it’s not because my Browns lost another late-season game. I expect that this time of year, but for some reason I still watch anyway.

I cried watching Chevrolet’s 2023 holiday ad, “A Holiday To Remember.” If you are overly sentimental, I’ll summarize the commercial for you. Otherwise, please watch and have a box of tissues ready.

The ad opens with a rambunctious large family holiday gathering, and then focuses on the matriarch who is staring off into the distance. Several members of the family try to communicate with her, but she does not respond. It quickly becomes evident that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Suddenly, her 20-something granddaughter, Tracy, has an epiphany. She walks her grandmother out to the garage, and the pair climb into a 1972 Chevrolet Suburban. As the two drive around town, listening to “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver, Tracy begins pointing out things around town hoping to spark a conversation.

Slowly the grandmother begins to realize that she is in her hometown, Saginaw, MI. We begin to see the memories of a life well lived come flooding back to her. A stop at her high school, at the drive-in movie theatre, a couple’s first kiss; all the unforgettable moments that happen in your car. Suddenly she remembers her husband Bill, and the pair drive straight back to the house. Gramps climbs into the front seat of the Suburban, she recognizes him, the two kiss, then go inside the house to celebrate what is likely Grams’ final Christmas.

We talk a lot at Coleman Insights about the importance of brand building. We use The Image Pyramid to help audio entertainment brands prioritize their marketing efforts. The first step to establishing a strong and resilient brand is to solidify its base image. What is the brand? Why does it exist? In Chevy’s case, they manufacture and sell cars and trucks. Everyone knows that. Since this base attribute of the brand is firmly established, Chevy has the luxury of focusing on other brand elements higher up the Image Pyramid.

For a decade, Chevy has positioned itself with the slogan “Find New Roads,” a uniquely American positioning statement. It encourages the consumer to associate the brand with commonly held consumer perceptions of what it means to be an American: Innovation, Exploration, Leadership, etc.

The “A Holiday To Remember” commercial is part of Chevy’s campaign for its new slogan “Together Let’s Drive.” In an interview with Automotive News, Chevy CMO Steve Majoros says that the “Together Let’s Drive” campaign was the result of nearly a year of market research that uncovered a shift in consumer values following the pandemic, a return to “a sense of respect and admiration for trusted institutions and a focus on friends, family, and community.” “A Holiday To Remember” brilliantly continues this effort by subtly connecting the Chevrolet brand with the importance of family, friends, and community.

In contrast, nearly every other commercial I saw during the Browns game was screaming about 40% off, BOGO, Black Friday, or something. Nothing that made me want to connect with the brand, and consequently since I can’t recall any of the messages, I will be shopping on Amazon again this year.

Radio should take note of the “Together Let’s Drive” campaign. Like the car, music has always been a central part of our lives. It’s there when we fall in love, celebrate with friends, and enjoy the best of what life has to offer. Assuming that your base music position is firmly established in the minds of your listeners, perhaps you can incorporate the power of memories in your programming this holiday season. Where were you when you first heard this song? What song was playing when you first fell in love? What memory does “White Christmas” evoke? Etc.

For me, my love of music comes from my mother who was a music teacher for nearly 50 years. She lost her battle with Dementia in 2017, but she is frequently in my thoughts, especially this time of year. While watching this Chevrolet ad, I recalled that she used to sing “Sunshine on My Shoulders” when I was a child to cheer me up if I had had a bad day. Thanks for the memories, Chevy.

Advertising is More Valuable Than Premium Subscribers?

I read an article recently that surprised me. It explained that Netflix’s “Basic With Ads” subscribers are more valuable to Netflix than ad-free subscribers who pay $15.49 a month. I always thought the streaming business model depended on us all paying higher and higher subscription fees. Turns out, all these services want us to watch ads instead of paying higher fees.

Why? Because these companies learned that getting us to watch “premium ads” generates more revenue than monthly fees.

Photo credit: Koshiro K/Shutterstock

I personally love the ads. They give me a chance to get another drink, explain the show to my father-in-law, and use the bathroom. Plus, I’m learning about all kinds of new medicines that I didn’t even know I needed.

Now let’s consider the radio industry, which continues to rely on the ad model DSPs find so valuable, yet we seem to despise so much.

An unhappy program director may say “The commercials are killing the station!” But do listeners really feel that way?

We can argue another time about the legitimate issue regarding the quantity of commercials, but I have learned that commercials are expected on the radio—and maybe even quietly enjoyed by people like me.

So, what if we embraced the commercials? Worked hard at making them premium. And recognize that they are more valuable than any “subscription fee” we might someday be able to extract from an audience through our apps or other means.

When launching a new station, one of my mentors would include dummy commercials, mainly for concerts and new releases. He did this for two reasons: first, it gave the station credibility. Second, it created an expectation for commercials. Premium ones at that. Of course, he controlled the production and spent the time making them sound great.

I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan, but I have been enjoying the commercials I see during the baseball playoffs. Who doesn’t love a winged talking/singing Buffalo with his hooves on the bar? And it won’t be long until we have another round of Super Bowl ads to talk about.

There will always be advertising that radio stations are asked to run that is out of their control. But there are plenty that are within their control. Rather than focusing on how to not run them, maybe the focus should be on how to run and present them in a more appealing way.

Ads can be great if we make them great. And, as streaming services have learned, with the right ad structure there is real value to the bottom line.

The Greatest Ad Campaign of All-Time

Ask me what my favorite advertising campaign of all-time is, and I will answer without hesitation: Kmart’s 2013 “Ship My Pants” commercial.

Wait Jay, Kmart? That Kmart? The Kmart you ripped apart in a blog on your LinkedIn page in 2016?

That’s the one.

Three years before that blog, Kmart put a 30-second spot on the internet called “Ship My Pants”. And three seconds in, I was laughing. No, snorting.

Do I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy? Yes. But it was hilarious. It’s still hilarious. And if you measure success strictly by analytics, it was a massive success for Kmart. The original video was viewed 10 million times on YouTube in its first 24 hours. This would have any marketer or brand manager screaming with joy and doing cartwheels, and I’m sure they were.

So, if it was such a “success,” why is Kmart still barely hanging on nearly 10 years later? There are two primary reasons.

One is the brand problem. By 2013, Kmart’s heritage brand was significantly long in the tooth. Its shoppers were old. Meanwhile, the “Ship My Pants” campaign was funny and edgy. Not exactly a brand match.

But does that mean they should have not run it? Not necessarily…but they needed to commit to it.

If Kmart really wanted to change its brand perception and become relevant to younger consumers, “Ship My Pants” could have been a great start. And then they followed it up with “Big Gas Savings,” also pretty great (and remarkably timely right now!)

But by the time I visited Kmart and wrote my LinkedIn blog in 2016, Kmart was bringing back the Blue Light Special. THE BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL!?!?

My head hurts.

The other reason “Ship My Pants” couldn’t save Kmart was, of course, the store itself. You can run the greatest, funniest, most entertaining advertising campaign the world has ever seen. If the customer experience is no good when they consume the brand, the advertising is pointless.

By 2013, Kmart stores had already looked sad and in disrepair for some time. Customers had plenty of other places they could ship their pants, and they’d likely feel better about shipping elsewhere.

Had Kmart renovated its stores and improved the customer experience before running the “Ship My Pants” campaign, who knows what could have happened.

But instead, I’m afraid Kmart may be shipped out of luck.

Do Your Ads Fit Your Brand?

Tuesdays With Coleman

As we at Coleman Insights have learned from years of radio research, a station’s brand is vital to its success. Coleman Insights’ Brand Content MatrixSM illustrates our belief that the success of great radio stations is the result of two dimensions. First, the station’s brand strength—its top of mind awareness and perception. Second, its in-the-moment content strength—a function of how compelling the content is. The Brand Content Matrix shows the most successful radio stations marry high-quality content with a well-established brand.

Brand Content Matrix

The content we program should fit with the brand we’ve established or are trying to establish. For example, a Classic Rock station with a harder edge should consider whether playing Fleetwood Mac, even if it tests, fits the brand. The development of a station’s brand—and making sure the brand is considered in decisions from programming to marketing—plays a very important role in a station’s continued success.

The cable TV world, where I spent a good chunk of my career, understands this. However, a cable network, especially one with a carefully and well established brand, also concerns itself with the ads it airs. That is, if it wants to maintain its brand integrity with its audience, the brand’s objectives must be woven through advertising as well as content. Commercials have to make sense in a viewers’ experience or a viewer might, literally or figuratively, walk away. With the advent of minute-by-minute Nielsen measurement and new platforms for measuring viewer engagement, ad content fit has become part of the network brand equation. This is especially true for custom ad content, like sponsorships and integrations. Networks want to be sure that ad content flows with carefully selected programming content and doesn’t provide a misguided “jolt” that disrupts the viewing experience. Yet in radio, we don’t always take that approach.

In the radio world, we also talk about “fit”, but that addresses programming elements like music and personalities. It is rarely viewed in the context of whether advertising makes sense on a station. We don’t often concern ourselves with how well an ad integrates into the listener experience. After all, an ad is an ad, and stations need ads to survive, and people are used to hearing ads, so why make any changes?

PPM tells us that “in the moment” listenership diminishes during ad breaks (though, as we found in our 2011 and 2006 studies, not as much as the industry believes). When stations strive to provide their listeners with a seamless content-to-ad experience, they can cut down on this disengagement even further. Listeners shouldn’t get the aforementioned jolt when an ad break starts, cueing them to tune out either literally or figuratively. An advertisement won’t always sound exactly like a station’s regular programming, but if an ad makes sense within the framework of the station, it will likely maintain audience engagement while it plays. More engaged listening can lead to both a more engaged audience and better advertiser ROI.

The question, then, is how best to provide a listener with an experience that is as seamless as possible. One suggested method is through localization.

When a station’s hosts, who are already known quantities to their listeners, read ad copy that is customized for the station and its metro area, listeners connect it directly to the station’s content. The voices they hear are familiar, and listeners think of a station’s host as local. Therefore, the ads make geographic sense. Using a station’s talent is also great for business. Recent studies, like one from the USC Annenberg School of Communications and another commissioned by Cumulus Media, tell us that using familiar personalities in radio ads increases purchase consideration or purchase itself, and that familiar personalities influence listeners’ opinions.

Another method would be making sure the products advertised—and the style in which they’re advertised—make sense for a station’s brand. For example, a car dealership commercial featuring a country song might feel jarringly out of place on an Urban AC. You might not want a Motley Crue music bed under a spot on a Mainstream AC station, just as hearing John Legend could be confusing on an Active Rock outlet.  If your station is perceived as “family-friendly”, are there clients with edgy spot content you need to turn away or spots you should at least daypart? Is the production quality to the station’s standards or will it reflect poorly on the product?

Not every solution will work for every station. Programmers who are fortunate to have the advantage of research—especially perceptual research—can glean a better understanding of what their brand stands for. Understanding what your brand means to your audience and the broader marketplace can empower you to view the product from every angle. This level of strategic knowledge allows savvy programmers to consider every song and piece of content. Sharing these brand insights and working collaboratively with the sales leadership at the radio station can help ensure that your station’s listening experience continues to engage your audience even when your programming is on a break.