Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Hillary Clinton of Over-the-Counter Meds

I speak from personal experience. I've seen it. I've been diverted an additional 2 minutes from the Wal-green's check out simply to stare, wonder, and read all that the alluring green packaging had to offer. "Is this for real?" was the first thing that came to mind. But then I thought maybe my mind was too wracked with intencity of thought to not be real. It rather reminded me of "Spray-and-Walk-Away". The simplicity was too profound and sincere to be taken for either. But apparently I'm not alone in this mind-numbing consideration. Apparently it's a phenomina, a whirlwind of speculation that does more for the product in discussion than any low-budget, monochromatic screen ever could.

I share with you a few other takes on this new glue-stick-homeopathic cure, one a summery by Seth Stevenson of Ad Report Card, one a humerous take from NPR's Brian Unger, and here a link to a visual parody on the product with rapper Lil' Jon. Bear with the seeming repetition of materials here, it's all part of the scheme:

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HEAD CASE
the mezmerizing ad for headache gel

By Seth Stevenson

The Spot: A woman rubs what appears to be a glue stick across her forehead. The voice-over repeats one sentence in triplicate: "HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn: Apply directly to the forehead." We cut to an image of the product in its packaging, while the voice-over tells us that "HeadOn is available without a prescription at retailers nationwide."

When I first saw this ad, I was convinced it was a viral prank. Everything about it—the woman serenely rubbing stuff on her forehead; the lack of explanation as to what this stuff is; and, of course, the mind-numbing repetition of that weird catchphrase—just seemed too bizarre to be an actual commercial for an actual product. When I logged on to HeadOn.com, I expected a jokey Web site that would eventually redirect me to a promotion for Burger King or Axe deodorant or something.

But no, it turns out HeadOn is for real. (That is, the product does exist. I'm not sure I can use the word "real" in any reference to a topical homeopathic health remedy.) HeadOn is meant to treat headaches and is a gel suffused with various plant extracts that you apply—say it with me—directly to the forehead. I am told that doing so creates a cooling sensation. HeadOn is available at Wal-Mart for $5.24 if you care to check it out for yourself. Caveat emptor.

As for this ad campaign, it is utter genius. With this one 10-second spot, the makers of HeadOn have torn down all the pretenses that have gummed up the advertising industry for years. Production values? Persuasion? Emotion? Humor (of the intentional kind)? These are stalwarts of the old, outmoded advertising paradigm. The new, head-on (or HeadOn) approach holds that advertising is about blunt force.

It really is sad when you think about the hard work that gets done inside advertising agencies. All the writing and rewriting, the late-night brainstorming, the mining of creativity from the deepest recesses of one's cortex. And then there's the casting, the directing, the high-budget locations. The question we must now ask is: Why bother with any of this? The HeadOn ad is more effective at reaching its goals than 99 percent of the ads on television. And it succeeds on the strength of a few, bare-bones tactics that most advertisers carefully shun:

Repetition: According to Dan Charron, VP of sales and marketing for HeadOn, the company used focus groups to test all sorts of marketing tacks. One experimental approach maxed out on repetition, and the results were incredible. The focus groups' recollection of the ad, and of the product, was light-years better than with any other method. Which, of course, seems completely obvious—how can we forget something when it's being jammed into our brains? And yet I've never seen an ad embrace this insight with so much gusto.

I suspect most advertisers avoid the broken-record technique out of fear that it will annoy people. Which it does. But so what? Maybe a small percentage of us will snootily refrain from buying HeadOn—as an act of protest against an ad we find irritating—but this is a small price to pay when millions of other folks are now familiar with HeadOn, curious about it, and unlikely ever to forget its name. The repetition method serves no purpose for a well-established brand ("Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus. Coca-Cola: Pour it down your esophagus"), but for a new product fighting to get noticed, it makes a lot of sense.

Kitsch: This ad was made in-house by HeadOn, and it boasts production values so bad they may seem intentional. (They're not.) That green, graph-paper background. The way the volume fades and surges on the voice-over loop. The big, yellow-arrow graphic in the middle of the screen. And above all, the very image of this chick rubbing goop back and forth across her noggin. It's mesmerizing in its cheesiness and also eye-catching because it looks and sounds like nothing else on television

Mystery: We all know how to use the product. (My understanding is that it's meant to be applied to the forehead. In a direct manner.) But the ad never tells us just what HeadOn is for. I had assumed this was in compliance with some kind of FDA regulation, the way pharmaceutical ads never say just what a pill does. But in fact, according to Charron, HeadOn (being an over-the-counter product) is not even subject to these regulations. The omission of a key detail here is a purposeful marketing technique.

"A good way to get attention," says Charron, "is to not say what the product does. It touches on people's curiosity." Indeed—curiosity is what sent me to the HeadOn Web site, and it no doubt sent millions of other people there, as well. If some percentage of those people are headache sufferers, and also gullible, they might well be moved to buy some HeadOn.

Grade: A+. And I haven't even touched on yet another powerful theory: These ads give viewers headaches, thus spurring demand.


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Taking an Annoying Pain Commercial Head On, by Brian Unger:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Concluding Thoughts

I finished Tim Power's book Dinner at Deviant's Palace last evening and found it incredibly...intriguing. The pithy phrases teetered off a bit towards the end but there were still a few noteworthy and picturesque moments:

"I'm never at my most charming right after amputations."

"Lisa sat down and had a drink herself, from the neck of the bottle."

And my favorite line of the whole book...

"Jaybush leaned back and indulged in a fit of laughter that set his corpulent body jiggling like a rack of carne asada on a windy day in the meat market."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Would Ya Please Pass the Puddin'

The refurbished old prison is a beautiful sight to behold! As soon as I walked through the door I forgot that I hadn’t eaten much all day, I even forgot why we were there, I just wanted to go explore the levels and levels of original hardwood floors, the antique style chandeliers and light fixtures, the local artist’s murals, and the jail cells in the basement now used as kitchen space. Monell’s is certainly the best new Franklin development project I’ve seen in a while.



I had no idea what I was getting into last night when I agreed to go to dinner with my friend Jayme, but I knew that she had never steered me clear of any adventure in the past so it was a sure thing that she wouldn’t start with the dinner plans. In true Jayme form, she had me talking to complete strangers around a large wooden dining table, passing a feast of southern foods, before I even realized that I was having a good time. Connections were made, stories of “our people came from…how about yours” abounded, and if I could have just gotten the nerve to ask the nerve to ask the newcomers to pass the fried chicken one more time I think my social adventure of the year would have been last night. Oh well, gives me something to work on the next time I need to be a bit out-going!



If I even entertained the idea that after dessert and coffee our adventure would come to an end I really should have known better. It was just the beginning really. On our way out the door, Jayme struck up a conversation with a fellow that looked like he was in charge. He was—of this and four other Monell’s restaurants. Michael King, the owner, kind of reminded me of the vim and vigorous Robin Williams. He had the storyteller enchantment of and actor and the charisma of a stand up comedian. He gave us the fully narrated tour I’d longed for since walking through the door. A detailed description of the building’s history, the crazy and frustrating (using a few other fun words) nature of having to deal with codes for a historic building, and—after a few guided and genuinely inquisitive questions from Jayme—told us about the Indian chief he hired to “smudge” the place because the vibes were more than a bit disconcerting, especially around the hook and trap door area of the second floor where hangings were performed on Mondays at the old prison. All in all, it was a fascinating adventure as Jayme and I took more than a moment to reflect.



And I suppose I’ve been reflecting ever since. Jayme made a comment after dinner something to the effect of, “I guess now whenever we think of Michael we can remember to pray for him”. It was really more the nature and way she said it than what specifically she said—though that has been given much thought as well—that set my mind a wondering…

I remember a few zealous years ago when I complained about the sheltered, religious nature of my life. I just new there had to be more than going to a Christian school, going to church on Sundays, going to lunch with church friends after church on Sundays, going to assist with Wednesday night children’s programs—also at church, and having all the people you associate with in between be those same souls you would worship with on Sundays and Wednesdays.



In the days since those zealous years I suppose I have become comfortable with the fact that all that I am and all that I do is associated with the church, Christian schools, and ministry. My jobs themselves are located within the walls of church and chapel. And I would have it no other way at this point in life because I know that here is where I am called. Yet the zealous taste of external Christian curiosity was left in my mouth yesterday evening.

But I wonder, I wonder something new. Something that maybe the space between those zealous and these mild mannered years may have given me. I wonder if within the mere act of living out ones calling in the simple, every day, ordinary affairs of life, I wonder if one can then be in the world but not of it. To be sure within that simplicity to take all the opportunities that come your way to listen, share stories and introductions, and maybe even plant seeds of truth and faith with those who are unbelievers, but to do so in a way that is neither revoltingly activistic nor zealously uninformed. In other words, when you meet a Michael take the time to cultivate a relationship. Ask, share, listen, be yourself, then commit to pray and see if and where God will allow your paths to cross again. Who knows, maybe we'll meet up with Mr. Grass again at his regular table, find an evening to pass the greenbean caserole to "Gran-gran" at the end of the table, or find ourselves sitting in the presence of a sweet Nashville ladies devine southern accent. Who knows.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Newest Designs In Baby-wear


"Shhhh! I'm workin' on somethin' ova here!"


According to the Jinx web site: The beauty of this baby creeper is that at any given moment, this could be (and probably is) true. In addition, the J!NX Baby Research Team (JBRT) has found that even if the pooing has yet to happen at the time this creeper was fitted onto said baby, it will happen within 2.3 hours, and probably when there are no diapers readily available.

To order one for a baby near you go to Jinx.com today!



Stylin' and profilin' in the comfortable flexibility of cotton.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stories

I can't tell a story verbally for the life of me. Occasionally, when moved by the muses of creativity, I can write a mediocre one. But boy, do I love to hear them! Because I love good stories so much I have always found it a bit strange that I can't sit down and read them. That has always been a great struggle for me. Though I enjoy reading, it doesn't come easily for me. I tend to pickup theology or history before picking up a novel. So this summer I'm trying to train myself to broaden my horizons by reading a few good stories. So far I have read The Digging Leviathan by James Blaylock, Falling by Colin Thubron, and I am currently in the middle of Dinner at Deviant's Palace by Tim Powers.

The first was simply a science fiction to get me jump started on this discipline of nailing my bottom to a chair for a few hours in order to read a story. I occasionally had to read out loud—as I've been told you should do with a good story—just to get the feel of the story telling process.

The second is by far my favorite. I caught myself more than once saying out loud, "I want to write like this!". But I will save all review of Falling for another entry because I simply could not do it justice right now.

My current novel is more for the sake of getting over my snobbish embitterment of Time Powers. I simply have never read him for the simple reason that everyone else in my simple circle has and I simply wanted to be the only one who had not. There. I've come out with it. I am a snob! But quickly repentant one I hope. Powers turn of phrase and fresh spins on old clich├ęs are what have struck me most as I read Deviant's Palace. They are quite enjoyable:

"Some people simply have no will to survive—they're walking hors d'oeuvres waiting for someone who can spare the time to devour them."

"Money is just the checkers in a game played by unhappy children."

"...the vacuous inattention of a couple of long time communicants, on whose faces the obligatory smile sat like a welcome mat in front of an abandoned house."

That is that. I'm tearing down all reading prohibitions and finding that there is a wellspring of creativity out there that I have never bothered to jump into. How refreshing!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oooooo, Aaaaaaaahhhhh....



I'm just glad that it wasn't the Chinese that we decided to break away from because then we wouldn't be able to have so much fun with their awesome invention!