Archive for the ‘advertisements’ Category

The Art Of Preppy Branding

April 24, 2011 - 8:40 am 8 Comments

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For most people, a polo shirt is just a polo shirt. While I don’t entirely disagree with that claim, it is impossible to ignore the innovative and painstakingly consistent branding that top sportswear designers have used to create their special niche in the preppy world. Take four brands: Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Brooks Brothers, and Vineyard Vines. Each company has had great success with its line, even though some have been around longer than others. To the objective eye, they all manufacture colorful polo shirts with critters on the left breast. However the branding each company develops transmits a specific message to the masses, making each stand out its own way and attract people accordingly.

In honor of polo shirt season, I’m going to bestow some special honors on these four preppy contenders based on their recent branding campaigns.

The Classic Award Goes To…The Pony. Blue-blooded American is the best way to describe Ralph Lauren’s advertisement for BIG PONY, the new men’s fragrance line that’s been popping up in every. single. fashion. magazine. Rekindling the root of what RL the brand was founded on, the iconic ad features four incredibly good-looking polo players. Each fresh-faced male is appealing in his own way, just as each scent offers something different, yet they all look effortlessly classic – like it’s intrinsic to their very being.

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The Chic Award Goes To…The Crocodile. For decades, French brand Lacoste has made its mark with European chic sportswear. As their most recent advertisement illustrates, Lacoste isn’t afraid to be a little quirky while still remaining high-end. The “Unconventional Chic” ad stars model Anja Rubik, sporting a slinky, shimmery evening gown with a simple white polo shirt on top – certainly unusual, but undeniably a blend of luxurious apparel. “We wanted a campaign that was an affirmation of the brand statement as a whole,” said CEO Christophe Chenut. “We’re showing that you can be chic in a different way, not just when you are dressed up for a party or for the office.”

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The Old School Award Goes To…The Golden Fleece. The 2011 Suprima Collection from Brooks Brothers ad campaign is as old as the Greek myth that inspired the logo. Depicting conservatively dressed friends at an outdoor gathering, the atmosphere generated by the ad is undeniably stuffy, appealing to those of traditional values and country club lifestyles. The Brooks Brothers website is of the same caliber, featuring tips on “Proper Etiquette for Golf” and “How to Dress When Attending An Outdoor Event.” Emily Post would undoubtedly approve.

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The Laidback Award Goes To…The Whale. Vineyard Vines is all about the Good Life. Inspired by summers growing up in Martha’s Vineyard, the clothing incorporates colorful patterns of sailboats, beach chairs, crabs, etc…, all evocative of summer’s finest moments. Every catalog contains photos of smiling families, friends, and wedding parties wearing the brand, firmly instilling the feeling that Vineyard Vines brings people together. Instead of using professional models, Vineyard Vines selects college students, sailors, their own employees – anyone who enjoys the Good Life really – to represent the brand in the catalog pages. Each person has a story (and wears Vineyard Vines while telling it). Right now, Vineyard Vines is in the middle of its Spring Tour, road tripping all over the East Coast in this brightly patchworked vehicle.

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A Kiss To Build A Dream On

February 15, 2011 - 12:34 pm 10 Comments

Mad Men, a TV drama that revolves around the culture of a 1960’s advertising agency, explores the intellectual process of devising an ingenious ad. Last week when I was watching an early episode, one moment caught my eye and inspired today’s post. During a brainstorm for Belle Jolie lipstick, all the secretaries are testing different colors. At one point Peggy Olson gestures to the trashcan full of blotted tissues and calls it “a basket of kisses.” What a romantic notion to think of lipstick as not just a color enhancer, but also a kissing enabler!

With Peggy Olson’s copy in mind, I set about comparing the recent advertising campaigns of three notable lipstick brands – what their products promise you and the avenue they take to deliver that promise.


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CoverGirl, a brand associated with the likes of Queen Latifah, Drew Barrymore, and America’s Next Top Model, celebrates both inner and outer beauty. Their new Lip Perfection Lipstick, as modeled by Taylor Swift, claims to create smooth and soft lips in just one week. The ad focuses solely on Taylor, her red lips, and her spirited personality. Because she seems both confident and relatable, you get the impression she’s being completely herself. And really, that’s what CoverGirl is all about – wearing a product that makes you feel good and enhances the qualities that make you, well, you.


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The face of Rouge Coco by Chanel is Vanessa Paradis, a siren for the sophisticated. Like CoverGirl’s product, Rouge Coco softens and soothes lips with moisture to give you the ultimate pucker power. Vanessa supplies Rouge Coco with a wistful, romantic feel of 1940’s antique Paris. While gazing at her, you begin to imagine that once applying the lipstick, you’ll emanate a certain je ne sais quoi, an aura of mystery. Chanel creates the illusion of sensual, everlasting elegance, hard to resist if your role models are Leslie Caron and Catherine Deneuve.


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Whether you associate Revlon’s lip stain with a passionate lover’s embrace or vampire frenzy, Just Bitten displays a highly physical connection – the kiss, itself. In the ad featuring Jessica Biel, the lip stain provides a moisturizing “kiss of softness” and its luscious hues hint at the flush of anticipation, the appeal of the forbidden. Revlon’s constructed fantasy refuses to disappoint, making you not only desirable, but very kissable.

CoverGirl, Chanel, and Revlon all boast of conditioning lips to that perfect, kissable state. Referring back to Peggy Olson and her “basket of kisses,” however, each product markets the act in a unique way. With girl next door, bright-eyed CoverGirl, the kiss would be serendipitous, an unexpected surprise in the rain. Chanel is more coy than that, suggesting a possibility of a kiss…a dare, even. You know you want to and I might just let you. But Revlon’s kiss is inescapable, a little bit dangerous, and all the more desired for it.

You, the consumer, make your decision based not only on the person you are, but also the person you could be. Such is the beauty of advertising.

What Do Jennifer Aniston and “The Situation” Have In Common?

January 11, 2011 - 9:38 am 59 Comments

In advertising, you can be whoever you want to be so long as it sells. And nothing reinforces brands’ images more than the celebrities that represent them. Take Glacéau products, for example. Smartwater and Vitaminwater work side-by-side to provide healthy beverages infused with electrolytes, vitamins, and supplements. However, their marketing strategies are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of the people they hope to attract with their endorsement selections.

Smart like Smartwater

Jennifer Aniston / Smartwater

My first impression of Smartwater’s oblong bottle with a china blue teardrop was a clean, minimalist look. Combined with the brand’s motto, “Purity you can taste, hydration you can feel,” a picture formed in my mind of the kind of cleansing lifestyle Smartwater could give me. In my opinion, no one is more synonymous with this fantasy then Jennifer Aniston, Smartwater’s official spokesperson and the epitome of health. Glowing, toned Aniston is dedicated to yoga and paddle boarding, active pursuits of a slow and steady nature. On Smartwater’s Facebook page, she is even shown in their new ad wearing clothes made by yoga garb manufacturer, Polyvore. All of their marketing elements – with Jen at the forefront – operate in a beautiful harmony to promote healthy living. Looks like the brand image is doing its job.

B Consistent, Vitaminwater!


Time to switch gears because Vitaminwater’s brand is all about boundless, vibrant energy. Their palette of fruity flavors, bright colors, and pithy text on eye-catching bottles positively scream, “Youth!” Add Vitaminwater’s self-proclaimed “shiny new look” and latest flavors “Stur-D,” “Dwnld,” and “Spark”? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to interpret their goal to attract a young demographic. (Not like 2,104,424 friends on Facebook is that strong of an indicator that it’s working…) I really liked where the brand was going until Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino entered the picture. First of all, with other spokes-legends, such as David Ortiz and 50 Cent, how could Vitaminwater even consider putting “The Situation” on the same level? And second, as hysterical as the ad may be, I’m afraid that trendy aspirations are overriding the entire point of Vitaminwater. The male personality of The Jersey Shore, with his seemingly steroid-enhanced body, GTL regimen, and questionable drinking habits, contradicts the brand’s healthy image. Vitaminwater, please figure out what your message is and stick to it.

Spokes-Characters, Speak to Me!

January 6, 2011 - 12:43 pm 20 Comments

Jingles used to be the trend keeping a brand obnoxiously stuck in your head.  “We want meow mix, we want meow mix, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow.” And while that still holds true today (see any commercial for an annoying example), it seems that Spokes-Characters are a new trend that’s sticking.  From Six Flag’s suspender wearing, old man Mr. Six to Orbit’s clean lady, they’re popping up everywhere.

Orbit's Clean Lady, Progressive's Flo, and Old Spice's "The Man"

And what’s most interesting isn’t that marketing agencies are targeting humorous and unique characters, but that the characters are gaining more awareness than the brands themselves.  Flo, the Progressive girl, has nearly 2.5 million friends on Facebook while Progressive the service barely scrapes past 20,000.  The Geico Gecko has nearly 150,000 fans while Geico the service has only about 93,000.  How’s that for outshining your boss?

And Facebook isn’t the only measure of greatness for our beloved characters.  Old Spice’s “The Man,” Isaiah Mustafa, went from being a behind the scenes NFL bencher to a 2010 star.  After premiering his commercial during the Superbowl last year, Isaiah made appearances on Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, and a ton of other shows.  And, to round the year off, he was also cast in a Jennifer Aniston flick.  A similar success came to the Geico Cavemen who struck so well with comedic viewers that ABC gave them their own series Cavemen.

These characters, when created with the right mix of humor, irony, and uniqueness, are a company’s pipe dream.  Never mind having the characters take on a life of their own, like our friend “The Man,” but what better way to bring on a lifetime of free publicity than to say that your company discovered a star?  It’s like Calvin Klein being able to claim they launched Brooke Shields.

Maybe Spada’s next move should be a talent department…

Holiday Heaven for Advertisers and Consumers

December 21, 2010 - 7:30 am 2 Comments

Christmas: a holiday so full of joy it turns reluctant Scrooges into happy elves.  No one understands this better than the companies who have, gracefully and with much success, exploited the holiday for all its worth.

Starbucks Advertisement

Exhibit A – Coca Cola. An adorable Mama Polar Bear and her playful cubs, fighting the harsh winter winds as they push a large pine tree up a snow-covered hill.  Upon arriving at the warmly lit cave they call home, they award their hard work by cracking open an old-fashioned glass bottle of Coca Cola.  What a loving and warm holiday vision to associate with a brand during the holiday season.  The original commercial, “Northern Lights,” aired in 1993 and since then the polar bears have reemerged year after year with fun-filled story lines and playful characters (such as dancing penguins and skiing bears).

Exhibit B – Starbucks. Oh, the endless tirades I could dive into about Starbucks and their experience-focused branding.  But, for the sake of focusing, let’s discuss those holiday-flavored, somewhat-coffee-resembling drinks offered seasonally.  I first tried their Pumpkin Spice Latte three or four years ago and, being a year-round pumpkin fanatic, fell hard for the addiction.  Since then, I have added the Peppermint Mocha, Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Latte, and Eggnog Latte to my seasonal favorites.  Setting aside intoxicating scents of baked goods, warm fires, holiday music – basically all the essential ingredients of the Christmas season – boy, does Starbucks seriously know how to brew up a holiday drink.

Exhibit C – Jordan’s Furniture. Now this one is more regionally known but Jordan’s Furniture owns the “Enchanted Village of St. Nicholas.”  The Village, a vintage collection of 28 holiday scenes with hundreds of animated characters, has been a New England tradition since 1958.  Starting with villagers buying gifts at a “General Store” and progressing to a group of carolers singing in the town square, the walk-through experience is entirely free.  Over the years it has become a seasonal event for New Englanders who have made the visit an annual tradition, or, after seeing it as kids, are now sharing the experience with their little tykes.

Moral of the story – why struggle to develop messages from scratch when the holidays give you plenty of material to work with?  Not only is there the Winterland theme, but you also have renowned associations of family, love, and happiness.  Jumping on the holiday wagon has proven to be a smart move for these companies – one that consumers look forward to every Christmas season.

Ambients: Bringing Advertising To A Whole ‘Nother Level

December 15, 2010 - 7:29 am 3 Comments
Reaching New Heights in Advertising

Reaching New Heights in Advertising

After scrolling through my morning tweets, I came across a link to Inc. Magazine’s favorite ambient ads. I can’t help being drawn to the bizarre so I checked out all the images. Instant reaction? Woahhh. Secondary reaction? Googling “ambient advertising” to find more creative-borderline-psychotic stuff to look at. I hit the jackpot.

The ambient ads catcall you and you have no choice but to look. That’s how they work. Once you get past the undeniable cool factor, however, the fact remains that these out-of-the-box, “more is more” gimmicks are meant to serve a fairly straightforward purpose: bringing awareness to a brand. After I finally managed to stop gawking, which – let’s face it – took a while, I began to wonder if these ads were effective in all their wacky glory.

Example that incites consumerism: From Rimmel Quick Dry Nail Polish, a bottle of nail polish sculpture seemingly pouring liquid onto the sidewalk. Height of a college freshman. Dangerously magenta in color. Effective? Indisputably. This ambient is not only displaying the product in a fun way, it’s also boldly strengthening its “quick dry” message.

Example that spreads a message: From Unicef, a dirty water vending machine selling over 8 lethal concoctions for only $1. Typhoid Dirty Water or Malaria Dirty Water? No thanks, but compelling to say the least. Unicef’s message is right there in your face: this is the only option developing countries have to stay hydrated. In this case, repulsion actually operates as an incentive to donate to a cause saving millions of lives.

Example that doesn’t cut it: From Gillette, a hairy elevator. All I can say is, eww, gross. The message there is loud and clear – hair today, please oh please be gone tomorrow! The problem? Whenever I hear or read the word “Gillette,” instead of imagining a clean-shaven, ridiculously good-looking man, I’ll think of…this. It’s a negative association.

So all in all? Love the brazen panache and call-to-consumerist action qualities of ambient ads. However, sending a clear message is key otherwise people will marvel but, being unable to understand what’s in front of them, not follow through. Also, be careful of how you use repulsion in ads – you might not get the response you were looking for.

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