4 Very Honest Ad Campaigns

It’s no secret that I love advertising. Instead of telling people to be quiet during the actual television program, I am the person that is shhhhing the room as soon as the commercials begin. Going out to a sports bar? You can find me with my eyes glued to the television during the time that people are supposed to be social just to watch the commercials. I prefer magazines that have more advertisements than actual content. In fact, I own several issues of Communication Arts magazine, which solely comprises of advertisements. Heading to the movie theater? The previews are the most exciting part of going to see a movie, DUH. Hopefully you get the point by now.

So, yes, Spring is one of my favorite times of year not because of the Super Bowl but because of the incredible and highly anticipated commercials that come along with it. Speaking of the big game, check out my article in The Tiger from last year on my Top 5 Super Bowl commercials.

Let’s get back to the focus of this post. As I have been watching my various favorite television shows recently, I have noticed an increasing trend among advertisers: honesty. When I say ‘honesty,’ I mean that the purpose of the advertisement is to speak directly to the consumers who choose not to purchase their product by clearly identifying a problem, misconception, or a needed change. In doing this, the advertisement is doing so much more than just trying to entice the viewer to purchase the product. In my opinion, these advertisements bring a brand new type of marketing to the table: one where the advertiser is very obviously in tune to the opinions of the consumer. It will be interesting to look at the success and failures of these four campaigns, but in the mean time, I present to you four very honest current advertising campaigns, in the order of personal relevance and interest.

1. Triscuit’s Gone Topless
A product of Nabisco, Triscuit has been around since 1902 (according to their Facebook page), and has been a classic on the cracker aisle ever since. Only did I really think about the actual packaging until their most recent advertising campaign, but apparently they had heard otherwise. Triscuits’ packaging has traditionally always had a picture of Triscuits topped with something, to show that the cracker was the perfect party dish. Now, however, they are wiping the toppings clean from the packaging after realizing that people didn’t know they could eat Triscuits without them being topped with something. The premise of Triscuit’s newest marketing campaign is “Topper’s Tantrums,” in that “angry satisfied” customers exclaim how angry they are that they had never thought of Triscuits like this before.

This is Triscuit’s first advertising campaign with Crispin Porter + Bogusky, an agency well-known for it’s A-list clientele and it’s innovative campaigns. Not only are there new TV spots and print advertisements, but Triscuit has integrated the new “toppingless” packaging campaign completely into it’s presence on Facebook. I think this ad campaign is extremely interesting because instead of trying to differentiate themselves from other cracker products, the entire goal of this campaign is to announce that Triscuit is just the same as other crackers in that they can be eaten plain. By completely changing their packaging design, Triscuit is really going the distance to communicate with their consumers.

2. Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, not Craft time
This next advertising campaign, also by CP+B, is for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and addresses something that anyone who has ever attended Elementary School can resonate with. Remember in kindergarten when we would create art projects comprising of noodles glued to a piece of construction paper, or strung on a piece of string? Well, the whole premise of Kraft’s ad campaign is that macaroni and cheese is “Dinner, Not Art.” While consumers purchasing macaroni and cheese for craft projects isn’t necessarily hurting the profitability of the product, it is clearly not an objective of the brand. What this specific campaign shows is that Kraft is aware of what is going on in the consumer world and wanted to respond to consumers by essentially saying, “Hey, we’re proud of our macaroni. Don’t waste it by gluing it together.” [I mean, not literally, but that’s essentially what they are saying.]

In addition to the adorable television spots, Kraft actually went above and beyond by turning this simple idea into a full-blown socially responsible campaign. Kraft created an app for the iPad, in addition to the website DinnerNotArt.com, where users can actually use Kraft Macaroni noodles to create digital art, asking users to “save the real noodles for dinner.” And on top of that, Kraft announced that for every noodle used in the digital macaroni art, they would donate 10 noodles to Feeding America. Now THAT’S corporate social responsibility if I’ve ever seen it.

3. Don’t be surprised- it’s from Sears

This might be one of my favorite commercials from the past year, to be quite honest. This was the commercial that really started drawing my attention to these sorts of advertisements. From the very beginning of the clip, you know the exact message the brand is trying to send- and the message is phenomenal. Sears is essentially saying, “hey, we get it, we’re not known for cute clothes and you’ve probably made an effort to avoid clothes-shopping with us.” The woman is obviously embarrassed when asked where she purchased her top, and stunned when she receives a compliment for it. For the rest of the advertisement, the woman is thrilled to show off her clothing and equally as excited to tell others that her outfit is from Sears, which comes as a shock to everyone she meets. This. is. RICH. Complete re-branding at it’s finest. Just like addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem; and, ladies and gentlemen, Sears has done this flawlessly.

This particular advertisement was part of a total re-branding for Sears that started in the summer of 2012. The campaign is titled ‘This is Sears,’ and was an attempt to really change the way people viewed the department store. It was crafted at the hands of mcgarrybowen, and includes several other popular ads, including the recent clip for a fake dance competition show (you know, the one where the dancers run right into the appliances?), but none that are really as brutally honest as this one. They don’t have to specifically say, “we want to change your minds about us,” but they simply end the advertisement with the following- “Surprised? Don’t be?” So, while this is just one particular advertisement among a whole campaign, Sears really nailed it with this one.

4. We promise, we’re not as bad as we used to be.

In terms of re-branding and providing a really honest marketing campaign, Internet Explorer takes the cake. Their campaign for the new Internet Explorer 9 was appropriately titled ‘The Browser You Loved To Hate.’ And that’s because we all did (and many of us still do). The only thing IE was good for when we got out first Microsoft laptop was for downloading Mozilla Firefox, or more recently, Google Chrome. In fact, I personally remember uninstalling my Internet Explorer once Mozilla was on my desktop. Quite frankly, it sucked. And that’s what made the marketing campaign for Internet Explorer 9 so incredible- Microsoft agreed with us. They knew how horrible the browser was. The consumer’s hatred for Internet Explorer was just the right fuel for a flawless marketing campaign.

The first advertisement that was released for the campaign was called ‘Child of the 90’s,’ and hit every twenty-something with a wave of nostalgia. The premise of this particular advertisement was that just like we grew up, so did Internet Explorer. If this isn’t honesty, I don’t know what is. They are directly targeting the people that hated Internet Explorer growing up, the people who had all started using different browsers, and saying, “we know we were bad, but give us another chance.” The implementation of this first clip was genius. The video went viral very quickly, filling up everyone’s Facebook news feed and reaching over 25 million views on YouTube. But Microsoft knew it needed more than just a viral video.

This marketing campaign is also the product of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and was even more successful because it was more than just a single successful advertisement. There were several other clips blatantly bashing IE that really showed the consumer that Microsoft understood; they knew how bad they were and they were doing something to change that. In addition to the video advertisements, they created a tumblr called ‘The Browser You Loved To Hate.’ Here, they addressed all skepticism for the new IE. The top row of the micro-site even has two tabs titled ‘It’s Good Now,’ and ‘No, Really.’ The target marketing for this was spot on. The average tumblr user is  a teenager or twenty-something, so this was a brilliant move. With Apple as their main competitor, Microsoft knew they needed to bring out the big guns, so they did.

If you’re not into advertising nearly as much as I am and you made it through this whole post, bravo, my friend. I hope this gave you a better insight to the workings of my brain. Maybe next time you’re watching a sports game or your favorite show, you’ll stop and think a little bit about the advertisements and why in the world anyone would pay millions of dollars just for that one thirty second spot.

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