Following up from Badvertising! and Badvertising! 2 I am proud to present the latest and most likely the last article in this series. The reason for this – besides the fact that I have not gotten any “Likes” for these articles yet! - is that with this final instalment I have taken advertising critique as far as I want to (if not as far as it can go!). In the present article I have simply focused on one single ad and have deconstructed it line by line as well as looked at everything from positioning to the overall philosophy behind the ad itself. I have come up with a number of new concept and taglines ideas and have written extensive new copy in support of these new approaches. All in all I have written over 3,000 words in response to this ad, which is more than 10 book pages.
Here is the culprit ad:
LOOK AND LEARN.
CISCO VIDEO OVER IP HAS THE POWER TO MAKE LEARNING MORE EFFECTIVE. TO LOWER EXPENSES AND RAISE PRODUCTIVITY. NOTHING ELSE COMES CLOSE.
VIDEO TECHNOLOGY SAVED CISCO $42 MILLION IN JUST ONE YEAR, WHILE INCREASING TEAM COMMUNICATION AND KNOWLEDGE. FIND OUT HOW EASILY YOU CAN DEPLOY ROCK-SOLID AND COST-EFFICIENT VIDEO TECHNOLOGY"
This is a traditional ad that simply screams out features and benefits as loud as possible (in this case using striking colours and capitalization!). The retro TV is very eye-catching and, indeed, is the best thing about the ad. Unfortunately, using an antique appliance may take away from the cutting edge modernity of what we are selling. Most readers will not associate this archaic TV set with the modern streaming video of which the ad speaks, especially with the “V” antenna in back of the set. Many people still automatically think of TV versus VCR “video” whereas the word has a different meaning in the world of IT where TV is also video. The word “now” is too reminiscent of the thousands upon thousands of one-word taglines out there (“Dream”, “Believe”, “Imagine”, “Look”...). As well, the word does not summarize and is not tied into the key differentiator the ad is communicating; what this differentiator is in any case is not clear as it it drowned out by all the features and benefits.
The ad utilizes what might be called the “bullhorn approach”, which is to say it merely makes an announcement of supposed value points to the reader without trying to connect with them emotionally or being personable, creative or imaginative. The Cisco brand is in no way expressed or enlarged by this bland ad, apart from perhaps the idea that they are a technological innovator and and make great products (if you believe the hype!). Beyond user benefits, we do not venture into touching on the more critical areas of customer lifestyle and values in order to create more impact and strengthen the relationship between customer and brand. Of course, you can't do everything with every ad but you can definitely do a little more than make a generic, “hard sell” announcement.
The copy deserves special attention as there are sticking points with almost every line. In the worst cases these can be seen as outright flaws and at best they create ambiguity and breaks in the flow of the narrative. The tagline screams “now” and the first line is “Look and learn.” Is this an order? Does it apply to the ad – as in, “Read and apply!” - or to what is being advertised? After multiple readings it occurred to me that it probably refers to the fact of being able to use video - “look” - in order to learn. While well-intentioned, I would nuke a phrase like that because to the casual reader it sounds very odd, especially when coupled with the TV (are we meant to be watching it?). Wouldn't “Watch and learn” sound less like an order and more like the possibility we are trying to educate readers on? If I were to stick to this theme, I might even start off with “watch” as the one-word tagline, followed by “learn.”
The copy goes on to say that “Cisco video over IP has the power to make learning more effective.” Why not simply, “Cisco video over IP makes learning more effective”? Well, one reason is that I have to ask, how can you make learning more effective? Is it not the case that what is learned is learned? If anything is more effective it is the teaching and the measure of that is how much is being learned. A phrase like “enhances learning” might do the trick here.
“Nothing else comes close” sounds like desperate, last ditch effort marketing. While I am not against the use of superlatives and saying you are the best, you should either prove it conclusively or not at all. What I mean is that if you can provide measurable statements and say, “nothing else comes close” then go right ahead. Or just say it as a standalone statement that needs no justification. Here, we are simply making subjective statements like “make learning more effective”, “lower expenses and raise productivity” which are not quantified and do not give muster to our promise of being the best. What expenses are we promising to lower? Learning costs or communication costs in general? What about free video solutions like Skype and Google or those in commonly used online meeting applications? The whole thing is kind of vague and I for one don't buy it.
The second paragraph of copy does start off with a strong, definitive “numbers” statement and I think this first sentence would have been better placed somewhere in the opening of the copy. I don't like the phrase “increasing team communication and knowledge” because, once again, you have to think about it twice (or more!). Assuming that increased team communication means that people are talking more to each other, does this seem like a logical outgrowth of video? In my own experience, video conferences are shorter if anything because of the discomfort of being conscious that others may be looking at you without your realizing it. With phone, on the other hand, no one minds long pauses and silences in conversations – e.g. to wait for others – as you can simply do something else until the conversation resumes. Or is it that, if your team is set up with video calling capabilities, people will be more apt to connect with others this way? Once again, I think picking up a phone is easier and would be the first choice by far in most cases as a video call is far more intrusive. I am tempted to think that “increased communication” simply means a more interactive communication experience where you can look at others and read facial expressions and things of that nature. As well, I am assuming that the increased communication and knowledge pertains to a learning environment which is something that is not mentioned apart from the first sentence of copy and is an idea that is not fleshed out enough in the ad. What does it mean to “increase team knowledge”? Why couldn't we make clearer statements like the team “learned more, faster” using video?
“Find out how easily” in the last sentence might be better as “Find out how easy it is”; it may seem like a small thing but the original sentence leaves open the possibility of video being deployed “less easily” which means hard! As well, “rock-solid” is the wrong descriptor here for three reasons: firstly, it is followed up by “cost-effective” which is also a hyphenated term; secondly, it just does resonate when applied to IT infrastructure and makes the deployment sound like it will be a massive effort; thirdly, it brings to mind subterranean rock-boring and cabling efforts and the subconscious association with video cables being laid which is exactly what video over IP is not.
New Concept 1
Most people have heard of voice over IP but what about video over IP? I would venture that this is a new idea to most people and just this by itself can be the central focus of the ad. We can also engage the reader with a more conversational approach and speak as Cisco (and not some anonymous advertiser!). Going with the style of the current ad, the first word should be a large tagline in both of the following copy suggestions. I've added a lot of copy which can be trimmed to suit.
New Copy 1
video over IP. It's no longer just a gleam in your IT guy's eye. It's here and it delivers. Expensive? How's this: it will actually save you money. How much? How does $42 million sound? That's what we saved just in the first year of implementing a comprehensive enterprise video technology solution. What are you going to use it for? In a word, to communicate. Are your people remotely dispersed? You now have the ability to bring them together more often and at a fraction of the cost that you would traditionally spend meeting in person. Your team grows stronger and so does your bottom line. It works so well that airlines are beginning to panic. Okay, maybe not quite just yet. Are you a learning organization? This is really where video is a game changer. Time after time, team after team in organizations large and small have seen incredible gains in productivity, knowledge retention and learning ability using video in addition to traditional distance learning tools. Know more, save more. How cool is that? Plus, when you do it right it is easy, reliable and high quality. Sound good? Great, let's take the next step in getting you exploring the world of video over IP today!
New Concept 2
Breaking out the 2 themes of this ad, how can we more powerfully visually express the first one, the benefits of video in learning? Looking at it backwards, how about the idea that virtual learning without video is a major handicap? How about a picture of a blindfolded person or better yet, a class full of blindfolded people. Even though learning is the focus we can still mention cost benefits. The term “learning organization” will be recognized by many executives as being from Peter Senge's well-known book, “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization”.
Using this powerful imagery as a backdrop, there are any number of taglines you can utilize such as: “Stop Learning Blind” or “Are your people learning blind?” How about “Are you handicapping your people?” I suspect that this powerful message will attract the attention of virtually – pun intended! - every executive who sees the ad and especially IT executives who may see the Cisco logo at the bottom. As such, we will deliver the punchline in the first line to let non-prospects off the hook (i.e. those organizations who do not have distance teams and learning challenges).
New Copy 2
Learning organizations everywhere are finding that video may be the best thing to happen to learning since the invention of electricity. If that sounds like a leap then it may be that you need to explore and discover the world of video over IP for yourself. We are seeing time after time with team after team in organizations large and small that using video in addition to traditional distance learning tools creates incredible gains in productivity, knowledge retention and learning ability. What's more is that implementing a comprehensive enterprise video solution will save you money as you foster stronger ties between your remotely dispersed team members. We saved $42 million ourselves just in the first year of deployment and this figure is representative of the significant gains our customers are seeing as well. Save money, embrace the future, empower your people. If that all sounds like a good idea then let's take the next step in getting you exploring the world of video over IP today.
New Concept 3
The second theme of the original add is saving money on travel and this could have been represented with a shot of an airplane passing directly overhead.
“Travel is expensive” is a good enough tagline to attract the attention of our target group of buyers, corporate executives with big travel budgets (a great place to put this ad would, of course, be in airports!). For something a bit more dramatic we could go with “Cancel that flight” With this approach we are positioning Cisco video over IP to everyone who is interested in saving on travel costs. As such, we can take our time sinking our teeth, so to speak, into a prospect in the main copy. By the time we pitch video as a solution we will hopefully have brought out most of the negative feelings executives have about business travel. Then, even if they may not have initially been receptive to the idea of video they will be now because of wanting to defer the painful associations we have brought up.
New Copy 3
[Tagline: Travel is expensive.] Not to mention time-consuming, inconvenient and downright uncomfortable at times. Are you going to be able to get that rental back in time? Gone are the days when travelling for business was exciting and glamorous and something to write home about. How proud you were of your business travel and how you used to boast to your friends about it. You didn't mind staying up late and getting up early, the long lines or the cramped airplane seats. Jet lag was something you had simply heard of. Back then it was someone else's budget but now it's yours and the flights, hotels and cars add up. They really add up. We're talking millions and we should know. In the first year of implementing a comprehensive enterprise video over IP solution we saved $42 million. That's on top of creating a stronger team and realizing incredible gains in productivity, knowledge retention and learning ability using video. We know you need to see your folks face-to-face but why can't it be at your desk or in your conference room? Our customers are finding that by reducing their travel significantly and relying on video communication, remote teams can meet more often and at a fraction of the cost. There is a lot to be gain by going video and we hope you're intrigued. Why don't we take the next step in getting you exploring the world of video over IP today?
New Concept 4
I have touched on the idea of building stronger teams using video and this is a theme that deserves attention as well as a possible focal point for this ad. The reason this particular theme is so compelling is that is touches on values and not solutions benefits or even customer lifestyle (in this case being a travel-oriented organization!).
The science of advertising in my mind is about connecting BRAND with CUSTOMER along the spectrum above. The solution is part of the brand – just like the overall company! - but more than anything else the brand and therefore the ad must have personality. How is a person to have a relationship with something that does not have personality? Personality is the manifestation of your brand in terms of what customers perceive - as opposed to think of! - and it includes visual elements as well as, of course, what you communicate. How you communicate – your tone and style! - is therefore important just like what you communicate is (the latter is more important because, let's face it, you can get away with a nondescript promotional flyer with simple product information but writing the most eloquent and engaging discourse without connecting it to anything meaningful to the customer probably won't work!).
As a value, the idea of building stronger teams is closer to a customer's sense of identity and therefore it is something that will resonate much deeper than simply talking about the benefits of video. A striking visual representation that combines a strong team with the idea of disparate team members is showing a number of threads of different colours coming in from the borders of the ad to form a tight pattern in the middle (top). The tagline would be “Separate but well-knit”. An alternative is a picture of a puzzle with the pieces together in the middle but separating as you reach the edges of the ad. Here the tagline could be, “Together Apart.” In this value-centric approach, the dollar savings may be placed at the end, almost as an afterthought. Once again, I provide an excess of copy that can be trimmed down to be made more concise as necessary.
New Copy 4
[Tagline] Does that describe your team? Maybe you believe in old fashioned values and doing business face-to-face. In a strong company culture that permeates every level of management and every individual within the organization. In rock solid teamwork built on mutual trust and a commitment to excellence that is fused into your collective DNA and is part and parcel of your work. You're right, you're not going to accomplish all that over the phone and with e-mail. But what if there was a way to get face time with your people without the time, expense and inconveniences of travel? And what if you could nurture and grow the same positive culture without having to leave your office? Meet more often and at a moment's notice? There is a way to accomplish all this and more and that way is video over IP. Our customers are finding that they can enhance distance communication significantly through virtual meetings that are only a step away from meeting in person. Distance learning is boosted with incredible gains in productivity, knowledge retention and learning ability using video. The best part may be how much money you are going to save. Just in the first year of implementing a comprehensive enterprise video solution we saved $42 million. We don't think that is too bad and if you don't either then let's take the next step in getting you exploring the world of video over IP today.
New Concept 5
This last concept is the one that you pitch right at the end and pray the customer chooses (but they never do!). It is adding a comical twist to the idea of building stronger teams but at the same time powerfully depicting the strong bonds that can develop between team members over the years. A lot of companies like to think of themselves as families and while you might not hear the term used as such, oftentimes people working together come to love one another. This approach will also add another fantastic advertising element which is a story.
There are two options for the visuals for this one, both of them a 1950s-style comic book type illustration. Option 1 shows a squeaky-clean, smiling, youthful all-American with curly hair, a hat and shirt – tie optional! - holding a jacket over the shoulder with one hand. The second option shows a classic damsel figure crying profusely into a handkerchief.
“We're gonna miss you, Johnny!”
New Copy 5
You're growing and Johnny's going. You've opened a new office in Denver and someone's got to run it. Someone good. Dependable. Trustworthy. Dedicated. Heck, he's the best you have and you might as well face it. You're gonna miss him and you're probably planning a trip out there every month for the next year. Does it have to be that bad? What if we told you that you could see Johnny more often? How about everyday? No, you're not dreaming but you are on video. Not only are you going to be able to foster and cultivate your legendary team culture but you're gonna save big too. How does $42 million sound? That's what we saved just in the first year of implementing a comprehensive enterprise video over IP solution. Our customers are saying similar things as they enhance distance communication through virtual meetings that are only a step away from meeting in person. Distance learning is boosted with incredible gains in productivity, knowledge retention and learning ability using video. So wipe your tears. Johnny may be gone but you won't be missing him because it will be just like he's there.
Do you have insights, strategies or a story about advertising to share with other readers? Perhaps you have implemented a new ad campaign that is working really well or have insights into how traditional advertising is being supplanted by newer methods. Send in your thoughts in as much detail as you like to create a page in this section.