Entries in Marketing (16)


Condom Campaign Latest Social Media Marketing Disaster

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A condom giveaway hijacked by pranksters: It's the latest example of a social media marketing campaign gone wrong.

Durex recently asked its Facebook followers to pick which city they thought should get Durex SOS Condoms, which, according to the company's website, are provided on a rush basis to customers via a smartphone app.

According to Durex's website, London (with 594 votes) did not win. Nor did Paris (688), New York (363), or Kuala Lumpur (1,420). Tuscaloosa wasn't even in the running. Pranksters, according to Bloomberg, swung the vote to Batman (1,731), capital city of a conservative Muslim province in Turkey, where condoms are unwelcome.

These days, say experts, any brand that wants to remain engaged with its audience has to have a social media marketing campaign. But such campaigns, they say, are opportunities for abuse.

McDonald's in 2012, according to Bloomberg, sponsored a Twitter campaign that invited patrons to post stories of their favorite McDonald's experiences. Instead of a torrent of warm, feel-good recollections, McDonald's got snarky Tweets that included the following:

"My memories of walking into a McDonald's: The sensory experience of inhaling deeply from a freshly-opened can of dog food."

And this one: "McDonald's customers don't want to tell #McDStories. They just want their fries, mechanically separated chicken parts and wallow in shame."

McDonald's, says Bloomberg, ended the promotion less than two hours after its debut.

The problem in these two cases—and in many others—say experts, is that the campaigns gave respondents too much leeway.

It's a big mistake, says social marketing expert Kevin King, global chairman of Edelman Digital, to invite "open voting." Better, he says, to give respondents a limited list of options.

It's wise too, to keep close tabs on responses.

Ben Foster, senior vice present of digital media for Ketchum public relations, says companies make a mistake by not keeping close watch on what the public is saying.

Others err by thinking that monitoring software can take the place of human lookouts.

"People have taken a lot of shortcuts when it comes to listening," Foster tells ABC News.

"A machine cannot do it. We advise clients: actually go in and see what people are saying." Software, he says, can sometimes fail to detect an ominous comment because the sender has misspelled the "red flag" words or phrases the automatic filter was supposed to detect.

Make sure, he says, that the person tasked with monitoring takes the job seriously. "Don't just look for the youngest person in the room to run it. Put an expert in charge."

How quickly a company reacts when it detects the first sign of trouble can be critical, King says.

Nikon launched what seemed to be an innocuous enough Facebook campaign to promote its lenses and other photography equipment. It contained the statement, "A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures!"

Nikon's Facebook page, according to Tineka Smith of Computer Business Review, soon filled with complaints from photo buffs who took umbrage at the insinuation they were less important than the lens.

Nikon retreated, posting: "We know some of you took offense, and we apologize, as it was not our intent to insult any of our friends. A great picture is possible anytime and anywhere."

King doesn't recommend censoring customers' comments, because to do so may "only feed the anger." But companies need to monitor responses and respond quickly when they see trouble. Every situation is unique. "There's no playbook," he says. "You've got to watch the nuances, make those decision in real time: are people really upset? Is it really a protest? The quicker you react makes a difference."

A company that recognizes and responds promptly to someone genuinely offended, says King, "can stop the viral juggernaut."

Sometimes, he says, it takes only one spark to ignite a long-smoldering mass of customer resentment — ones of which the social marketers may not be aware. A company could get advance warning of such a danger if it linked its customer service department to its social media department. "But few do," says King. Many social media disasters he calls "self-inflicted wounds."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Feds: GlaxoSmithKline to Pay $3B for Illegally Marketing Drugs

GLAXOSMITHKLINE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Heathcare giant GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to an unprecedented $3 billion settlement with the U.S. government over allegations that the company advertised drugs for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and then used lavish gifts to convince doctors to prescribe the drugs.

In one instance, a drug was widely promoted to help treat depression even though the FDA had never tested it for such a use, according to the Department of Justice.  The multi-billion dollar settlement is the largest in U.S. history for alleged healthcare fraud, government officials said.

GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK, is a major manufacturer of prescription medication, vaccines and consumer healthcare products.  On its website, the company boasts, "every minute more than 1,100 prescriptions are written for GSK products."

In a 2011 Corporate Responsbility Report, GSK addressed the government's allegations broadly, saying, "Some people are concerned that marketing by pharmaceutical companies may exert undue influence on doctors, that sales representatives may not always give doctors full information about the products they are promoting, or that there may be promotion of medicines for unapproved uses."

GSK goes on in that document to say that the company has "fundamentally changed our procedures for compliance, marketing and selling in the USA to ensure that we operate with high standards of integrity and that we conduct our business openly and transparently."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


JCPenney Raises Ire With Another Gay-Friendly Ad

JCPenney Catalog(NEW YORK) -- JCPenney last year announced that Ellen DeGeneres, who is openly gay, would be its latest spokesperson. On Mother’s Day, it featured a lesbian couple in one of its ads. And now, just in time for Father’s Day, the retail chain has issued another print ad, this one with real-life couple Todd Koch and Cooper Smith, and their two young children.

The copy reads: “What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two.”

Once again, the ads have raised the ire of the conservative One Million Moms, that is again accusing JC Penney of promoting “sin” in its advertisements.”

“It’s obvious that JCP would rather take sides than remain neutral in the culture war,” OMM writes. “JCP will hear from the other side, so they need to hear from us as well. Our persistence will pay off! One day we will answer for our actions or lack of them. We must remain diligent and stand up for Biblical values and truth. Scripture says multiple times that homosexuality is wrong, and God will not tolerate this sinful nature.”

OMM has launched yet another boycott of JCPenney.

In an email to ABC News, JCPenney spokesman Joseph Thomas said, “In celebration of Father’s Day, we’re proud that our June book honors men from diverse backgrounds who all share the joy of fatherhood.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pepsi Announces New Michael Jackson Ad Campaign

Pepsico(PURCHASE, N.Y.) -- The estate of Michael Jackson has teamed up with Pepsi to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the King of Pop's multi-platinum album Bad and his unforgettable Bad tour.

As part of its new Live for Now campaign, Pepsi will stamp Michael's trademark silhouette on one billion limited edition cans in more than 20 countries.  The international roll-out begins on Friday in China, with collectible can designs being released there first, then in the U.S..  Later this year, the campaign will debut in Asia, South America and Europe.

New mixes of Michael's music from the Bad album will also be released as part of the special campaign, and fans across the globe will be invited to take part in live events and contests.  The prizes include a limited number of jackets inspired by those worn by Bad tour staff. 

Fans who share photos of their Michael memorabilia, or original artwork inspired by him, can also enter for a chance to win tickets to Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, the Cirque du Soleil show inspired by Michael's music.

The King of Pop's relationship with Pepsi spans more than 25 years.  He was featured in his first Pepsi ad campaign, alongside his brothers, in 1983.  A year later, while shooting another Pepsi commercial in Los Angeles, Michael's hair caught fire when a spark from a pyrotechnics display landed on his head.  The burns were severe, and many speculate that the painkillers Michael subsequently was prescribed led to his addiction to the pills.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Quaker Oats Man Gets Subtle Makeover

(NEW YORK) -- At age 135, the man on the Quaker Oats label has never looked better. The plump, beaming, white-haired man known as “Larry” recently got a makeover, making him look slimmer and a little bit younger. It’s a very subtle makeover that is not obvious to shoppers. He still has his hat and his snowy white hair.

Designers at Hornall Anderson, the Seattle-based firm charged with Larry’s new look, took away his double chin and some of the plumpness from his face and neck, Michael Connors, the firm’s vice president of design, told the Wall Street Journal. “We took about five pounds off him,” Connors said.

They also shortened his hair slightly and revealed more of his shoulders, making his neck look longer. “It’s the same neck,” Connors said, but the haircut “makes him look thinner.”

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Larry has been the symbol of Quaker Oats since 1877 and has been revamped a few times throughout the decades. His latest redesign is part of a wider effort by Quaker’s owner PepsiCo to keep things “fresh and innovative,” Justin Lambeth, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, told the Wall Street Journal.

As more consumers have the urge to make their diets healthier, many companies are responding by making changes to their packaging and advertising. Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said research shows that even subtle changes are effective in roping in consumers.

“There’s a growing demand among consumers for healthy products. They’re just trying to tweak the logo to conform to this healthy image, so it seems,” Harris said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baby Carrots: The Next Snack Food?

Bolthouse Farms(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- "Indulge the most tasteful of your tastebuds," says a female voice over an image of a sexy woman in a black shift.

"Baby carrots, baby," adds a Barry White soundalike.

No, it's not something from The Onion or The Daily Show. It's an ad for carrots. Baby carrots. The tagline: "Eat 'em like junk food."

The man behind the ad, one of several in a campaign viewable on Youtube, is Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms.

"We took some of the lessons of junk food and we kind of spun them," Dunn said in an interview with ABC News correspondent David Wright.

Dunn imagines a future where baby carrots are as popular as potato chips.

"We said, we've got a perfect snack," Dunn said. "Thirty-five calories. Affordable. Great health. Tastes great. But people aren't eating as much of them as we'd like. So what do we do?"

"We wrapped this thing in the same lessons as junk food marketing," Dunn continued. "Because junk and fast-food marketing has done a tremendous job of creating interest, innovation and energy around their products. So why can't we bring that same energy to something that's good for you?"

Dunn knows a thing or two about junk food marketing. Before he took over at Bolthouse Farms, he spent 20 years as a top marketing executive at Coca Cola.

When asked if his former colleagues might scoff at his carrot campaign, Dunn said, "No, I don't think so. I think we've gotten enough traction on this thing."

The company test-marketed this new approach to carrots in Cincinnati and Syracuse last year, specifically aiming the message at kids, not moms, by coming up with online content with themes such as vampires and extreme sports.

In both cities, there was double-digit growth in baby carrot sales.

If they had the same success nationwide, there would not be enough carrots to meet the demand. Bolthouse Farms and its rival, Grimmway, supply 96 percent of the nation's carrots. The two companies grow their carrots across the street from each other outside Bakersfield, Calif.

Baby carrots are not genetically engineered. "We breed them to be tiny," said Bryan Reese, chief marketing and innovation officer at Bolthouse. "It takes years and years. We try to breed them so that they grow long in uniformed diameter. And then we cut them up and peel them."

Next on the plate: flavoring. Bolthouse thinks flavorings can do for the carrot what they did for the potato.

Potato chips were selling just fine, with steady sales, year after year. Then companies introduced barbecue, sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, and potato chip sales took off.

Other foods, like apples, may follow suit, Dunn said: "We've had … a lot of interest from other producers across a whole range of commodities. They're all watching what we do, because from their standpoint, they'd all like to sell more of what they grow."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Procter & Gamble Pulls Photoshopped Taylor Swift Ad

File photo. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)(AVENEL, N.J.) -- The photoshopped eye lashes of Taylor Swift wearing Covergirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara have been pulled by Procter & Gamble after the National Advertising Division of the Council of Business Bureaus Claims launched an inquiry into the print advertisements.

“You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then -- in the 'mice' type -- have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really,’” Andrea Levine, director of the National Advertising Division, told Business Insider.

The advertisement, which depicted the lush eyelashes of the 22-year-old superstar complemented by Covergirl mascara -- along with a side of digital enhancement -- included the line: “lashes enhanced in post production,” or “lashes enhanced in post.”

Procter & Gamble did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

But, that wasn’t enough to keep the advertising industry’s regulatory agency at bay.

NAD asked P&G for proof of its claims that the mascara added “two times more volume” than bare lashes and was “20 percent lighter” than the most expensive mascara.

The organization was also looking into whether the advertisement, “conveyed the implied messages that consumers who use Covergirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara would get lashes like those depicted in the advertisement and that the lashes depicted in the advertisement were achieved solely by using CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mascara, without post-production enhancement.”

Since the company has pulled the ads, the regulatory organization seems content.  The company stated in a press release, it has “permanently discontinued all of the challenged claims and the photograph in its advertisement.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clothing Giant H&M Defends ‘Perfect’ Virtual Models

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- Visiting the H&M website is not the only virtual experience to be had by H&M customers who choose to order the company’s clothes online instead of inside one of their 2,300 global retail stores.

Also “completely virtual” are the models at the center of H&M’s swimsuit and lingerie online campaigns, the Swedish-based retailer confirmed.

“It’s not a real body; it is completely virtual and made by the computer,” H&M press officer Hacan Andersson told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in an article questioning the company’s picture-perfect online models.

In the Dec. 4 article, translated into English by U.S. celebrity website Jezebel, Andersson explained the company’s approach.

“We take pictures of the clothes on a doll that stands in the shop, and then create the human appearance with a program on [a] computer,” he said.

Images from the company’s website show models wearing the latest swimsuit and lingerie looks appear in generic, stock-form with their left hand resting slightly below their waist, right arm straight and face looking directly ahead.

Advertising watchdogs in the company’s native Scandanavia elevated the controversy by criticizing the chain of lower-cost clothing stores for their generic approach to models.

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, one of the most outspoken groups to criticize H&M, accused the chain of “creating unrealistic physical ideals.”

“This illustrates very well the sky-high aesthetic demands placed on the female body,” spokesman Helle Vaagland said.  “The demands are so great that H&M, among the poor photo models, cannot find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”

Andersonn defended the company’s decision to rely on virtual instead of real models by explaining that computer-generated bodies would ensure that the garments remain the focus of online shoppers’ attention, not the model’s bodies.

A spokeswoman for the company’s U.S. operations compared the use of virtual models online to the common retail practice of using mannequins in stores. The spokesperson confirmed Andersonn’s description of how H&M creates its virtual models, as well as the intention behind the practice, one she said is common.

Responding to the fire the company has come under in just the two days since the Aftonbladet article was published, the H&M spokesperson issued this statement to ABC: “It is regrettable if we have led anyone to believe that the virtual mannequins should be real bodies. This is incorrect and has never been our intention. We will continue to discuss internally how we can be clearer about this in the information towards our customers.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Subway Ups Ante In Dollar Menu War

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MILFORD, Conn.) -- Subway is offering a $2 subs in December, which may excite frugal fans but still keep franchisees happy. The sandwich chain announced this week it was only selling its 6-inch meatball marinara and cold cut combo sandwiches at the discounted prices of $2 during its Customer Appreciation Month.

Since the economic downturn began, many fast-food restaurants have featured dollar menus for a limited number of items or time period, such as Taco Bell’s $2 menu from mid-2010. McDonald’s currently has eight items on its $1 menu.

It seems a difference of $1 can make or break a promotion in the eyes of franchisees. When Burger King announced the $1 double cheeseburger in 2009, franchisees sued, saying they could not make a profit at that price.  Franchisees, represented by the National Franchisee Association, and Burger King reached a settlement in April, leaving the double cheeseburger on the Value Menu at $1.29.

The franchisees did not get money in the settlement but gained more power in future decisions about the Value Menu. Burger King did not return a request for comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'King of Infomercials' Commits Suicide before Trial

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FLORENCE, Ariz.) -- Infomercial pitchman Don Lapre committed suicide in prison, two days before he was to face charges for defrauding thousands of people in Internet business schemes.

Authorities discovered his body on Sunday morning in a Florence, Ariz., prison cell.  His trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

A grand jury indicted Lapre in June on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering. He was accused of overseeing and promoting a scheme through his company, “The Greatest Vitamin in the World.”

At least 220,000 victims in the scheme were defrauded of nearly $52 million, the government alleged.

Lapre, 47, referred to himself as the “King of Infomercials” and was parodied on Saturday Night Live through a recurring sketch by actor David Spade. He came to fame in an ubiquitous late-night spot in which he claimed he parlayed "tiny classified ads" into a million dollar empire.

On his website,, registered under his name, he recently responded to the charges against him, saying, "I tried to create the best product on earth, paid out millions, made very little trying to make it a success, had attorneys review my entire company, paid out millions in refunds, tried to make the commission and products better every single year, and in spite of all that, I have been accused of something I did not do.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio