Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Smack Talk

Due to positive feedback, Within Reason has gone back to the "Smack" well sooner than expected for another round of banter. This week, the discussion of a new snack product took us down the darker - and more comical - alleys of advertising. Feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment. Enjoy.

Within Reason: So, "Doritos Late Night" - have you seen that?

Smack: Don’t think so – what is it?

WR: Check it out: (ed. note - please check this out and weigh in with your thoughts/ideas)

S: I don’t get it.

WR: Neither do I. It's one of those things that's bugging me a little too much. Either it's targeting people who are up late with the munchies - in which case, would make it about as sensible a move as "Bud Light: Cookout" - or it is an evil genius plot to get people to talk about Doritos who normally would not.

Or, I'm totally missing the point. The commercial, which I saw for the first time last night, doesn't help. Essentially, it’s the typical 18-29 Scion-ish commercial, with Doritos. At night. Late.

WR: Hmmm. Nice piece, and a nice site. Still doesn't get me any closer. Perhaps what I'm experiencing is a bit of disappointment. This is almost a good idea. Marrying 2 objects - or an object to idea(l) - is exciting whenever a new boundary is crossed.

If, this is as it seems - just an attempt by Doritos to appeal to the "Dude, what time is it?" crowd of late night eaters, then it almost backfires for a few reasons: 1) I would venture that Doritos has a pretty firm grip on a decent share of the "in-home, late night munchies" market among the targeted demographic. 2) The easiest way to get late-teens and early twenty-something’s NOT to buy something is to try this hard to sell it to them. 3) You're dividing your market unnecessarily. I'm not that into junk food, but I'd buy Doritos, and eat them in front of my boss, to boot. I would think twice about buying "Late Night Doritos" because they are so specifically targeted to a certain demographic. Like the "" site points out - this is kind of like Cinemax. When some one says "I didn't see the Sopranos - I have Cinemax" there are those that hear "I was too busy enjoying 'Cinemax After Dark last night" and think to themselves "...dirty, dirty man." It would be as if The Cheesecake Factory came out with an "All Night Taco Stand" at select locations.

S: You’re going to buy them. Even if you deny it I won’t believe you.

WR: There is only one junk/snack food that I am powerless to resist: 'Hint of Lime' Tostitos. This is kind of my point - people up late at night, suffering from 'the munchies' eat snack food. Doritos and Tostitos both occupy that market. And while Tostitos Hint of Lime would undoubtedly satisfy the snack urges of plenty of those late night eaters - it does so without selling out, and eternally (or until the marketing budget dries up) linking itself to a somewhat questionable demographic.

To get to your point, Tostitos may be able to get me to buy 'Hint of Tequila', should they ever try.
S: Don’t forget about Funyuns. There is one and only one demographic that repeatedly gets duped by that product.

WR: Well, I don't know. I've never seen a Funyuns commercial, or seen one in print. That could go either way. Actually, I'm not even sure I know which demographic you're referring to. I associate Funyuns with young children, so in that case - you'd go after them. Anything snack-foody or cool, just go after the kids. Parents want to make kids happy. This gets back to my comment about marketing to anyone under 30: that is a very perceptive demographic.
If, as a child, I knew that my mother thought it would be a "good idea" for me to consume something - it immediately went on the "not too psyched to try that" list. Conversely, if I went to my mother armed with the incredibly targeted information about Cinnamon Toast Crunch having "vitamins and minerals" and "being part of a balanced breakfast" - she knew that I was brainwashed by a commercial that was essentially pushing sugar on me. I actually love that, now that I think of it. The people behind those commercials knew that by sprinkling in (pardon the pun) "scientific facts" about the quality of their product, it would make the child all the more likely to repeatedly demand the product from the parent - "But it IS healthy" - usually ending in one of those "I will collapse right here in the cereal aisle if you do not buy me Cookie Crisp, with it's 6 healthy ingredients - out of 73." Looking back, they could have skipped the actual research and said things like "Full of nutritional breakfast goodness" or "Complete with all the ingredients your mother will be looking for" (technically true) or "Now with corn, which the Native Americans referred to as maize. Just like you learned about in school." Any talking points.

S: Funyuns aren’t heavily marketed, but the demographic I’m referring to would be all the main characters in “Half Baked.” I don’t see too many children being turned on to puffed rice with onion powder.

WR: That's why they call them 'Funyuns.' I wouldn't see too many children being turned on to puffed rice with partially hydrogenated corn syrup and yellow 32, until you call it 'Corn Pops.'

S: Which reminds me… Have you seen the new commercials for high fructose corn syrup? Seriously?

WR: Yes! Those go right with the Exxon Mobil commercials that try to say "we care about Earth." Again, it's just the trick of marketing - getting you to think for a second longer about a specific product than you normally should. Even though everyone who speaks English should be able to deduce that there is something inherently wrong about a commercial that's essentially: "Hi there! I'm high fructose corn syrup. Not that you were probably wondering at all, but there's nothing wrong with me. In fact, I'm made from corn. You like corn, right? Hey! Alright - good talk, America. Remember: just forget about me." Even in the case that these adds are targeting the select few who actually remember the strangely revelatory 1990s-ish discovery that "Hey, what do you know? This stuff is like sugar on steroids. It can rot your teeth and make you fat. What? Oh yeah, diabetes, too!" - most of those people could be taken care of with a "We're America's producers of high fructose corn syrup. We'd like to address a few of the concerns you may have about our product. As you all know...Hey! A blimp!" - cut to black.

It's really like a commercial from gasoline. Not a brand, just gasoline. Or a hybrid of both "Hi, I'm Peyton Manning speaking on behalf of high fructose corn syrup. You know how you could theoretically ride your bike to work, or take a train - but almost all of you drive a gasoline powered car? Well, the next time you're ready to dump all over high fructose corn syrup - good luck finding incredibly sweet food without it. You could, but, people would think you were just getting all uppity. Now back to this very special episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

S: The whole campaign hinges on their new slogan, “It’s ok in moderation.” WHAT?

Even a Doritos Late Night patron can read between the lines and see that this product is not good for you.

You don’t see tobacco growers doing this. Why? Because as you point out, it just raises awareness of the issue that you’re fighting. Only the Corn Refiners Association could come up with an ad campaign like this. I can picture their board meeting… It takes place in Omaha in a barn loft, by torch light, and they’re getting all worked up in their overalls… One particularly articulate member speaks up: “We gotta do somethin!”

WR: ...and no one thinks "about what? We OWN the artificial sweetener market for everyone except Momorexics." Actually - bingo! There it is. It totally fits the criteria. It's a sensible commercial. They’re going for the Moms. Not for their kids, but for the actual Moms. "Hey, don't you miss juice? Because, you know, Crystal Light isn't juice. A little juice won't kill you. Also, tasty cookies. Just saying."

At least they're not going the alcohol 'moderation' route, where every add says to "Enjoy Responsibly" after presenting you with the following - A bunch of young people sitting around thinking "Awwww man, this is the worst lakeside gathering I've ever been at. And man oh man is it hot or what? hey...wait a In July??? Whooo hooo! Here comes the Silver Bullet! Yeah! Now that I'm smashed, I LOVE volleyball! And those hot chicks LOVE me! Thanks booze!"

Maybe the corn syrup folks could go after the kids with a commercial like this: Boring school lunch, same old fish sticks...chugga chugga CHOO CHOO!! It's the High Fructose Corn Syrup Express! Yaay! Popsicles! It's actually raining cookies! Juice with literally zero nutritional value from all the water fountains! Our teachers turned into The Wiggles - who are singing "M-o-d eee-ration!"

That would work.

S: If we could make that commercial that would be one of the better parodies/satires ever.

WR: And somewhere in Nebraska (or on Madison Avenue), the Corn Refiners of America's ad firm would think "damn!"

1 comment: