Truth or Just Gross- Too much shock in ads

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I have always been a fan of the Truth, anti-smoking campaigns.  For one, I agree with the message they are trying to send, but I also love the creativity and guerilla marketing style the commercials portray. About a week ago though, I saw their latest ad and I have mixed feelings. It got me thinking, when does advertising become too over-the-top and distract from your message.

Their commercial is called Ugly Truth: Poop vs Pee, take a look:

I get that the Truth campaign is about shock value, but I feel like this is a bit much.  When I saw it, I wasn’t shocked at the information they were giving me about smoking, I was shocked at the images I was seeing on the TV. Also, it took seeing the ad a few more times to really understand the message they were trying to pass along. Shocking or surprising content in a commercial is a valid tactic, but when does it become too much.  Is there a point, at which we can say, that is too much shock value, our ad is losing its effectiveness?

I don’t have that answer, but what I can say is that a commercial or any ad should leave the recipient thinking about the product or service you are trying to sell.  An ad should make someone want to go buy what you are selling or at least want to find out more about it. When a commercial gets to the point that it is all shock and no content I think it starts to be less effective. When people start to walk away thinking about how crazy a commercial or ad was instead of the message you were trying to give about your products or services, it may be time to start scaling back on the shock.

Author: Gary Balakoff

Taco Bell, Star Wars and Luke Skywalker

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As a huge fan of Star Wars and Taco Bell’s Dorito Loco Tacos, I would like to use Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star to highlight what I like about how Taco Bell handled the launch of the Cool Ranch version of the Loco Taco.

When Taco Bell launched the Doritos Loco Taco (can’t believe it took so long for someone to figure that amazing combination out) it was an instant success.  In fact it became the fastest selling Taco Bell item of all time (source). Personally, I think they are delicious and contributed to those sales figures. It wasn’t long after the release of the Nacho Cheese flavored taco that chatter for a Cool-Ranch flavored one started.  Talk of a Cool Ranch Loco Taco seemed to be everywhere, friends, co-workers, social media, radio and TV. I kept hearing people say, if Taco Bell was making a Nacho Cheese one, it only makes sense to have a Cool Ranch one. However, there was no announcement or release of a Cool Ranch taco and Taco Bell was sitting tight with just the nacho cheese one.

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This brings me to Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (because we all know the original trilogy is all that matters, but that is a completely different post). The strategy Taco Bell chose to go with is much like the strategy Luke Skywalker employed to destroy the Death Star in the movie. At the end of the movie Luke is part a squadron of fighter pilots that must hit a specific target to destroy the evil empire’s massive starship, the Death Star. Luke is able to get himself within striking distance of the target and is moving in to take the shot. As he does so Darth Vader (the enemy) starts chasing him. Now Luke has a fairly clear shot, although from some distance, but chooses to get closer and closer to have a better shot, even with Darth Vader closing in on him. Despite the pressure of Darth Vader about to shoot him down, Luke stays his course and gets in position for the perfect shot… BOOM, destroying the Death Star and saving the day.

Taco Bell, much like Luke waited, even with all the pressure to release a Cool Ranch Loco Taco, for the best possible moment.  Think about it, the Nacho Cheese flavored taco was breaking sales records and a Cool Ranch flavored one would have just added to those sales, but that would have given Taco Bell only one wave of excitement, with the flavors running parallel.  Instead Taco Bell waited and waited, even with all the demand, till the right time when the hype was calming down for the Nacho Cheese flavor. Then, with a very strategic launch, started a brand new wave of excitement with the Cool Ranch flavor. This may not have been easy, but by taking the same approach as Luke Skywalker and waiting for that perfect shot, Taco Bell created two very successful product launches for each of the flavors, not just one combined launch with the flavors together. They even made light of it in their commercials for the Cool Ranch Loco Taco.

With your campaigns, do you have the nerve to go against popular opinion? Can you stick to the plan you think will get you the most success even with your customer base and/or critics saying you should do something else? Will the Force be with you like it was for Luke Skywalker and Taco Bell?

Author: Gary Balakoff