It’s finally summer after a long—long—very long Midwest winter; and for me, that means one thing: baseball. So, you say to this long-suffering Cubs fan, what does baseball have to do with advertising? Well, I’ve touched on Moneyball as it applies to media in the past, but it’s more fundamental than that.
For Americans, baseball is synonymous with numbers. We just love stats.
In Truth, Lies, and Advertising, Jon Steele illustrates this point as it compares to our counterparts overseas. Just check out the difference between an American column on baseball and an English one on cricket – it’s simply part of how we consume information:
San Francisco Chronicle: June 2, 1994
TIGERS WIN, ESCAPE CELLAR
The Orioles have lost five of six, including three straight to the Tigers. Mike Mussina (7-3) gave up four runs and ten hits in six innings. He entered with a 5-0 record and a 1.57 ERA in eight lifetime starts against Detroit.
Belcher (3-8) gave up four hits, walked three and struck out three. He is 3-1 since losing his first seven decisions.“He didn’t look like a 2-8 pitcher out there. He looked like an 8-2 pitcher,” Mussina said.
Detroit took a 10-0 lead with a six run seventh inning. The outburst was fueled by an error by first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, ending his string of 161 straight error-less games.
British Sunday Times: May 29, 1994
This was a day of chilled winds and pocketed fingers, a day of grit and gruel, of edges to third man and thudded pads, a very English sort of day. Dour struggles between county teams on grudging pitches and under resentful clouds have always been part of English cricket, shattering the dreams of our youth and correcting the memories of our ineptitude…
…His life in cricket has been one of bluff commonsense interspersed with occasional shafts of stroppiness, although he remains a fine batsman. As he walked off it was hard to say if he were fed up with himself, the umpire or life. But he was fed up about something, a not unusual circumstance.
Perhaps these are somewhat exaggerated examples (can we please start using the word “stroppiness” in America?); but if we were to read, say, a Grantland profile of a given athlete today, we might notice similar language to that of the Brits, but it would most certainly be interspersed with an in-depth analysis of season or career statistics, much like the Chronicle example above.
For further proof, Steele notes the difference between American and British professional wine tasting. In America, we care deeply about a given bottle’s Parker score, a system developed by Robert Parker, Jr. based on the way he was graded in law school! Professionals in Britain scoff at the idea, fearing that such scores “take the poetry out of wine.”
Put simply, we like to be told what we like and what we don’t.
So what, you ask, does all of this have to do with advertising?
As an aspiring account planner, it has a lot to do with advertising.
Research gets a bad rap from the creative community; and when research is taken so literally, I am prone to agree. “But research is the backbone of your chosen profession!” you say.
Yes, yes it is.
The idea, though, is, in the beginning, to use research to gain insights, to derive those ultimate consumer truths; and in the end, to measure the brand’s distinctiveness, relevance, memorability, extendability, and depth — not just a simple, “did you like the ad?”
Perhaps that is why the Brits are so good at planning; the sheer difference seen in the two sports quotes above might be applied to the way planners from each country use data.
I’ve used this quote before, but it applies again:
“Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders. Instead, its steps forward (and sometimes backward) are often very human events in which personalities and cultural traditions play major roles.”
– James D. Watson, The Double Helix (as quoted by Jon Steel in TL&A)
The Brand Gap tells us that “bad research can be look looking at the road in a rearview mirror, [while] good research can get brands out of reverse and onto the Autobahn.” Ultimately, it’s a matter of a good researcher understanding how to apply the right kind of research in both the brief creation and campaign validation stages.
In Moneyball, we watch a battle unfold between old-time scouts who went on gut and experience alone, for players that had the “it” factor, played with heart, were scrappers – you know, all those cliches baseball analysts love; and the new-school sabermetricians who believed you could gain all you needed from analyzing a player’s advanced statistics.
As it applies to planning, I’d argue you’ve got to strike a balance between those two schools. When it comes down to it, a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. For a consumer to get the feeling you want them to, you’ve got to feel it too. And for the creative to back that up, your brief has to get them there.
There is a lot to be said for the intelligent application of data; but it cannot be relied upon. Instead, it’s up to us to straddle the line between creative and analytical; to continually become more and more able to apply data to the kind of humanity, flexibility, and respect for relationships that Jon Steel proposes – rather than rely on it in a cold, calculated fashion.
BBDO New York and Snickers reeled in Robin Williams for part of their “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign — and with a release so close to the Big Game, I can’t help but think this screams Super Bowl ad. With about as much quality production as you can imagine cramming into 30 seconds and an all-star performance from Williams, this ad certainly achieves what it set out to: Eat Snickers (damnit!) or you’re destined for ramblings on about Mother Russia’s tea cozies.
For insights and commentary on ads that did make the cut, stay tuned!
“Readers of The New York Times Sports section were greeted last Thursday with a – basically – blank page. This was in response to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voting zero, zilch, nada players into the hallowed Hall of Fame.”
Nothing like a little bit of controversy to start off the week. Read my thoughts on the New York Times’ take on the latest MLB Hall of Fame decision at Advertising Week HERE!
This is quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen.
A couple of rec league hockey teams were told they were being filmed as part of a documentary. I don’t know much about rec league hockey, but I’m imagining beer league softball.
There was no documentary.
Instead, Budweiser (with the help of Anomaly NYC) created a flash mob of sorts, mimicking a professional game atmosphere. Announcers, thundersticks, mascots, cheerleaders, confetti…the whole shebang.
You can see the emotion on the players faces – shocked by the drastic change in atmosphere – and that emotion translated to a level of intensity that I’m sure none of these regular joes ever imagined themselves playing in.
I know I love hyperbole, but this is amazing on Budweiser’s part. Especially when hockey fans – some of the most passionate fans out there – are missing the NHL. Without exaggeration, what a stunt! One of the best of the year.
Derrick Rose is still sidelined with that nasty ACL tear, and he may continue to be for the next few months. But that doesn’t mean we’re forgetting about him until the time comes.
A few months ago, I posted about Adidas’ first D-Rose spot of the season. In that short from 180LA, Adidas began to thaw the city that froze when Rose went down in an ad that celebrated the city, its favorite team, and its hometown hero.
Since then, Rose has continued his ubiquitous placement on the minds of basketball fans everywhere. Forget the fact that he might be warming the bench through Christmas and beyond, Derrick Rose is staying nearly as top-of-mind as he was when he was on the court.
Obviously this is the case in Chicago, as the Bulls struggle to win games without him; but I’m talking about the national stage. While the TV commercials for Adidas’ D Rose collection shoe playing on TVs across the country, Rose is also prominently featured in the latest NBA 2K video game alongside fellow NBA stars Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.
And if you needed more reason to love him, Chicago, he just bought a stake in Giordano’s – and is being featured in the chain’s local spots.
My former internship bosses at IEG told Ad Age that Rose brought in about $18 million from endorsements this year, making him the third-highest endorsement earner in the NBA (trailing only LBJ and Kobe at $33M and $28M respectively).
Jim Andrews, in-house journalistic genius at IEG (also known as Senior V.P., Content Stategy), noted that #thereturn is remarkable, and not something that could be done with every athlete: “Injury is a sensitive area. Some [athletes] wouldn’t want to be seen in pain and struggling.”
With partnerships ranging from Wilson to Skullcandy to Powerade, Rose’s unassuming star power has positioned him well in the minds of consumers. According to the Marketing Arm, 37% of U.S. consumers are aware of Rose, and of those, 88% say they like him to some degree.
For the year ending in April 2012, Rose had the No. 1-selling jersey in the NBA, an unexpected feat when one considers stars like James and Bryant. And for the time being, that star power doesn’t seem to be waning in wake of the injury. Chicagoans yearn for his return, and consumers across the country can’t help but feel a similar sense of anticipation.
I, for one, can’t wait for #thereturn; but in the meantime, I’ll revel in Adidas’ hype – and homesick-causing commercials – until I can get me a slice of Giordano’s (thank God for Thanksgiving!) and await Rose’s return to Da (much-in-need) Bulls.
It might sound ridiculous; but at the heart of it, it’s true.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that so severely hit New Jersey and New York, Mayor Bloomberg made the, albeit tentative, decision that the 2012 ING New York City Marathon would go on. He, along with New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg, issued a joint statement that held that the marathon would not take away significant manpower from the recovery process and acknowledged the event as “a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city.”
True as that might be – the race has been held annually since 1970, even in 2001 just two months after 9/11 – it was the opinion of the majority, at least of those who voice their opinions publicly, that holding the marathon, just days after what can only be described as a disaster, would be a travesty.
The outcry was instant, and it was loud. Many called for runners to turn around, walk away, and aid in the recovery process when the starting gun fired. Others rightfully, but perhaps less dramatically, questioned how the government could justify sacrificing any amount of manpower when residents of Staten Island were facing life or death situations, when all of Manhattan was struggling to get back on its feet, when there was a soon-to-be gas shortage and still millions without power.
In this day and age, to ignore all of that is a lofty task. Tweets from “average Americans” and members of the media alike make their way into the mainstream, #topics go viral in a matter of minutes, and the chorus swells louder than it could ever have before. Mayor Bloomberg had to acknowledge the majority, admit that his decision just might have been a rush to judgment, and ultimately do the right thing by postponing the marathon.
Simply put, it’s just about impossible to justify holding a major, major event — essentially, the same as a parade — just 2.7 miles away from this:
I’m sorry Sandy messed up your training schedule, marathoners, but I’m pretty sure the manpower can be put to better use.