A cautionary tale from the 90s. How not to manage a marketing campaign.
The worst sales promotion in history: Hoover’s free flight fiasco
In late 1992, the UK branch of the vacuum manufacturer, Hoover, offered an impossibly sweet promotion: If a customer bought any product worth £100, he’d get two free round-trip flights to the United States.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, pretty much everything. Multi-million pound losses and the end of the company, at one time one of the most trusted in the UK.
Under a new promotion, that same £100 Hoover purchase could net a UK-based customer two free round-trip flights to New York or Orlando — a package worth £600+ (£1200, or $1,460 USD, today).
When Hoover ran this plan by risk management professionals, the company was warned that it would be an absolute disaster.
“To me it made no logical sense,” recalled Mark Kimber, one of the consultants. “Having looked at the details of the promotion [and] attempting to calculate how it would actually work I declined to even offer risk management coverage.”
A quick look at the numbers. What were they thinking?
A new advertising campaign from Penguin that nicely off-sets yesterday’s article about unwittingly putting kids off reading — a set of posters celebrating the “life-affirming relationship that forms between a reader and the books they’ve loved over the years.”
Penguin celebrates dog-eared delights in new Happy Reading campaign
“The books are the ‘talent’ in this campaign,” Sam tells It’s Nice That. “Every reader has had the experience of falling in love with one and we wanted to showcase books that demonstrated evidence of these relationships and that told stories beyond those printed on their pages, whether through their cracked spines, dog-eared pages or the furiously scribbled notes in their margins.”
There’s more info on the Penguin website.
The classics we fell in love with, as chosen by our authors and readers
This summer, we’re celebrating the individual books that readers have fallen in love with. We’ve sought submissions from authors to artists, musicians to booksellers, and from you, Penguin Classics readers.
It’s hard to imagine e-books having the same impact…
A team of US academics have published research, Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites, which they believe shows the massive prevalence of sneaky user interface tricks designed to catch us out.
The seven deadly sins of the 2010s: No, not pride, sloth, etc. The seven UI ‘dark patterns’ that trick you into buying stuff
Dark patterns – user interfaces designed to deviously manipulate people into doing things – have become common enough on websites and in apps that almost two dozen providers have sprung up to supply behavior persuasion as a service.
And in some cases, these firms openly advertise deceptive marketing techniques, describing ways to generate fake product orders and social messages celebrating those fake orders.
These are their proposed categories of user-interface tricks.
Attempting to misrepresent user actions, or delay information that if made available to users, they would likely object to.
Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user decision-making and purchases.
Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from making a particular choice.
Influencing users’ behavior by describing the experiences and behavior of other users.
Signalling that a product is likely to become unavailable, thereby increasing its desirability to users.
Making it easy for the user to get into one situation but hard to get out of it.
Forcing the user to do something tangential in order to complete their task.
‘Urgency’ and ‘scarcity’ sound like pretty standard advertising methods that we should be very used to by now, but some of those others are very dubious. Here are some screenshots from the research paper.
Fig. 3. Three types of the Sneaking category of dark patterns.
Fig. 5. Four types of the Misdirection category of dark patterns.
What can be done? Here’s one idea they discuss in the paper which I like the sound of.
Fig. 10. Mockup of a possible browser extension that can be developed using our data set. The extension flags instances of dark patterns with a red warning icon. By hovering over the icon, the user can learn more about the specific pattern.
Is this a reversal of the phrase, ‘you are what you eat’? Now you can eat what you are.
Burger King trolls McDonald’s while nodding to mental health issues in new campaign
One of the joys of a big brand rivalry must be the chance every now and again to get one over on your nemesis through a catty campaign – or to try to at least. This week Burger King has stepped up to the plate, waving a red rag to its biggest foe McDonald’s with the launch of five “Real Meal” boxes, a cheeky rip of McDonald’s famous Happy Meal. Including Pissed, Blue, Salty Meal, YAAAS and DGAF (that’s “don’t give a f–k” to save you the Urban Dictionary trip), the new boxes allow customers to order a Whopper based on their mood, alluding to the fact that many people ordering a “Happy” Meal are far from it.
See also this other unhappy meal.
In a manner reminiscent of Loving Vincent, Em Cooper has created a wonderful short animation for a Berghaus ad campaign.
Em Cooper is a live-action filmmaker working with oil paint
“I was actually on a walk in Cornwall when the detail of how I would make it came into my mind. I wanted every transformation to feel natural and effortless — the transitions working like silent slippages of paint with the brushstrokes loosening just a touch and then reforming quietly into the next moment. It is painstaking and labour-intensive work: I hand paint every single frame individually, but the results are magical, and I think viewers can sense the time and effort that has gone into it.”
Time to get out
Rhett Jones from Gizmodo strikes a cautionary note about Apple’s positioning following Facebook’s recent data sharing controversies.
Apple isn’t your friend
In its own deliberate fashion, Apple appears to see a market opportunity in the privacy debate that goes beyond polishing its own image. As headlines blared about Facebook’s latest data-sharing turmoil, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has been quietly planning to launch a new advertising network for the past year. It’s said to be a re-imagining of its failed iAd network that was shuttered in 2016.
Generally, more competition is welcome. If Apple is giving Facebook and Google headaches, we say that’s great. But it’s a thorny issue when we’re talking about a few billion-dollar companies exchanging places on the ladder as they strive to be trillion-dollar companies. It’s just not enough for the least bad megacorp to keep the evil ones in check.
Ah, those were the days, puffing away around a burning maypole without a care in the world.
The vibrant world of vintage tobacco and alcohol ads
“This is a great example of the lush illustration used at the time and it shows a kind of surrealistic, whimsical approach with people dancing around a giant cigarette,” said Jim Heimann, author of 20th Century Alcohol & Tobacco Ads.
Russell Davies on the backward steps we’ve taken with how we relate to the web.
Let’s make the grimy architecture of the web visible again
And, for a while, domain names and URLs became part of the fun of the web. While the more commercial parts of town got excited about the money changing hands for cars.com, the bohemian quarters were creating baroque constructions like del.icio.us or mucking about with ridiculously domains. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as when I realised I could buy agoodplaceforacupofteaandathink.com. Surely, I thought, this must already have been snapped up. And then the URL shorteners arrived.
It’s increasingly apparent that a more digitally literate citizenry would be good for a thousand different reasons. A great way to start would be to make URLs visible again, to let people see the infrastructure they’re living in. Perhaps it’s time for some pro-URL sloganising: Beneath The Shorteners, The Web!
Agreed. Another example of this has been prevalent in TV and radio advertising for a while now — adverts ending with calls to search specific keywords or hashtags, rather than directing potential customers to web addresses. As well as reinforcing this move to de-emphasise URLs, dumbing-down the internet and creating more reliance on search engines, it can also work against those companies themselves.
The lunacy of search term CTAs in TV ads
Additionally, it is very difficult to dominate page one of the search results for those generic terms. Taking the Mini Original commercial shown above, the search query they told viewers to search for online was ‘New Original’. When conducting this search on Google, the first page of results are no where near dominated by Mini. As you can see from the screenshot below, seven of the listings are nothing to do with the car.
TechCrunch has a summary of the latest report from Google on its attempts to clear up its mess. Some of the numbers are incredible.
In 2017, Google removed 3.2B ‘bad ads’ and blocked 320K publishers, 90K sites, 700K mobile apps
Google also removed 130 million ads for malicious activity abuses, such as trying to get around Google’s ad review. And 79 million ads were blocked because clicking on them led to sites with malware, while 400,000 sites containing malware were also removed as part of that process. Google also identified and blocked 66 million “trick to click” ads and 48 million ads that tricked you into downloading software.
Sounds impressive, but that’s not all they’re trying to tackle currently.
The bad ads report publication comes in the wake of Google taking a much more proactive stance tackling harmful content on one of its most popular platforms, YouTube. In February, the company announced that it would be getting more serious about how it evaluated videos posted to the site, and penalising creators a through a series of “strikes” if they were found to be running afoul of Google’s policies.
The strikes have been intended to hit creators where it hurts them most: by curtailing monetising and discoverability of the videos.
This week, Google started to propose a second line of attack to try to raise the level of conversation around questionable content: it plans to post alternative facts from Wikipedia alongside videos that carry conspiracy theories (although it’s not clear how Google will determine which videos are conspiracies, and which are not).
That sounds quite intractable. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
People Too create striking paper sculptures for Amnesty’s brutality campaign
Their deceptively delicate and very intricate creations for Amnesty International’s Fan the Flame campaign, which are fashioned entirely from white paper. Depicting acts of violence and brutality with a quiet poignancy that is hard to match is any other medium, the detailed sculptures all the more impressive for their impermanence.