First Kmart. Now Verizon.
These companies think a play on funny word expressions not normally allowed in commercials will drive sales. So I ask, and wonder: What’s the big attraction with double entendre advertising?
The answer is eyeballs and attention.
In the case of Kmart, I get it. The brand has long since lost relevance and is suffering financially. The marketing team needed to break the brand out of its 1970s/1980s cement. So, last year they came up with a free shipping offer that integrated in-store shopping with their e-commerce website, and created “Ship My Pants.”
The ad won’t go into any time capsules celebrating the best of American culture, but it did go viral and generate tons of attention. Ship My Pants has reached 22.7 million views – and that’s just on the Kmart YouTube channel.
Seeking to leverage the popularity and build on the momentum, Kmart quickly rolled out a companion ad called “Big Gas Savings.” Ouch.
However, for all the notoriety, the marketing probably didn’t make a business difference (not clear what could have). Kmart, part of Sears Holding Corporation, continued to lose money. Looking at the rough time frame for the two ads, Adjusted EBITDA for the 13 weeks ending November 2, 2013 was -$139 million. That was a bit better than the -$169 million loss for the 39 weeks ending November 2, 2013.
That brings us to the Verizon FiOS ad I saw over the weekend.
My first reaction was disappointment. I guess I expected more from Verizon.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting features and benefits, especially if you’ve got a strong marketplace advantage that can drive sales and take share. Encourage the agency to come up with a clever advertising idea to communicate those benefits.
However, let’s acknowledge a Big Gas difference operating from the strength of the Verizon brand versus that of Kmart.
To be clear, I’m not saying that strong, established brands can’t take risks. They can and should where warranted and well-conceived. At the same time, though, stewards of these brands have a remit to protect, nurture and enhance the brand. Yes, I know the remit also includes growth.
Nevertheless, the Verizon ad just felt off. It didn’t come across as consistent with the brand. There’s a marketing exercise that says substitute Brand Y in your ad and see how it feels. The Verizon spot felt more Brand Y than Verizon.
Upon further review, consider this: Is Half-Fast more interesting and persuasive than another Verizon ad promoting the same service?
Maybe Half Fast will convert competitive users. If so, that’s a success. At the end of the day, the purpose of advertising is to sell. Marketers who ignore this fundamental usually get into trouble.
Verizon FiOS has a new double entendre ad that takes a page from Kmart’s 2013 playbook. Time will tell if Half-Fast marketing leads to Big Gas results.
Harvey Chimoff is a marketing and business team leader who drives performance in consumer products and manufacturing companies.