Future Research and Discussions

I created this blog for the writing component of my Creative Sequences advertising class in graduate school.  Due to having a deadline and thus limited amount of time to explore more topics, I was not fully able to present and discuss certain aspects of socially responsible ads pertaining to healthy living products.  I wanted to acknowledge some of the gaps in my content and topics I’d like to further explore in the future:

1.  The effect that ads for health-related products have on men.  A large amount of this blog discusses and focuses on products geared towards women and how the advertising of these products impacts their attitudes about healthy living. While women are a big part of consuming health-related products,  they are only half of the story.  Men are affected by the social implications behind healthy living ads, and need to be included in this discussion.

2.  The increased perception that eating organic will lead to a healthier lifestyle.  I touched on this when I discussed my findings from the survey, but did not get to expand my research and thoughts on the topic.  But it is an important topic becoming more prevalent with consumer’s attitudes towards healthy products.

3.  The impact that the clutter of healthy living ads has on consumer’s perceptions of their own health habits.  Again, this was a topic that came up several times in the survey, but did not get fully explored.  How can advertisers still sell their product without bombarding consumers with healthy messages?  I would like to explore further how putting less emphasis on the one-way communication tactics of traditional advertising and how creating a two-way conversation with consumers in non-traditional media can change consumer attitudes.

4.  The future of social responsibility in advertising.  Clearly, we still have a long way to go.  But how many strides away from it are we?  There is a perception that we live in a socially progressive and enlightened era, yet there is still a lot of media representations that don’t reflect this.  When is the tipping point of this social awareness revolution going to occur?  And what will that potentially look like?

A Commemoration to Nike

If you have a body, you are an athlete.

-Bill Bowerman, Nike co-founder

Nike is the No. 1 athletic wear company in the world, operating in over 160 countries worldwide with over 36,000 employees, and generating revenues of approximately $19 billion in it’s last fiscal year of 2010.  What a remarkable company!  But there’s more…Nike has won countless awards for its corporate responsibility in areas such as energy-saving, sustainability and diversity among many others (see full list here).

Their advertising campaigns reflect their social responsibility as a brand by promoting athleticism as something to strive for, and something everyone can be a part of.  Nike uses inspirational body copy such as, “All dreams are crazy.  Until they come true.” accompanied by their signature “Just Do It” tagline.  Nike demands action from its viewers to be both athletic and determined. Nike does not just sell exercise wear, they sell a way of life, a healthier life.

Here’s a few key Nike ads that promote strength, motivation and perseverance:

Defining Social Responsibility in Advertising

“Let’s gear our advertising to sell goods, but let’s recognize also that advertising has a broad social responsibility.”

–Leo Burnett

What does social responsibility in advertising mean?  In looking at businesses and products that are not innately healthy, they can still advocate social responsibility in the messages they put out into society.  After evaluating a variety of advertisements’ social mindfulness while promoting healthy living related products, I believe it is important to establish some guidelines for creating socially responsible advertising. Here is my checklist that makes an ad socially conscious or socially insensitive, which should be evaluated before it is released to the public:

1.)   Promote self-love.   There are constantly negative health messages transmitted into society.  Many health campaigns strive to promote diet and exercise but fall short of addressing emotional health as an important initiative. While displays of in-shape models in ads seem to be motivating, they do not promote positive self-esteem.  If you are going to promote healthy living, advocating self-love should compliment the ad.  An Avon guerilla marketing ad uniquely endorsed self-love by putting an interactive mirror on a sidewalk in Brakslavia, Slovakia. As people walked by the mirror, the mirror complimented people walking by, mostly women, on their physical appearance.  While it may resemble a Disney “mirror on the wall” motif, the ad serves as an astute self-esteem booster.

2.)  Stop trying to reuse negative stereotypes from previous ads.  It’s already bad enough how frequently stereotypes are used as a unique selling proposition, but the fact that it’s repeatedly regurgitated in advertising is just unoriginal!  Ad campaigns that shy away from conventional methods to advertise products such as skin care, exercise regiments, or low-calorie snacks, take this opportunity to both set themselves apart from competitors and promote a more socially cognizant message.  Instead of stigmatizing aging skin and physiques, promote the beauty of aging and how to happily embrace it. Instead of obsessing over the exclusive weight loss aspect of eating certain snacks, promote the importance of integrating healthy snacks with routine healthy practices, emotional and physical.  Socially conscious advertisers think outside of the box in their ad campaigns, deeming them both responsible and creative!

3)  There are no substitutes for healthy living and should be advertised like so.  Promoting weight loss or toning up “without going to the gym” and “eating whatever you want” is just wrong, and there’s no excuse for it.  It is important to get people to practice daily health habits such as eating less processed foods, more vegetables and working out versus wearing shoes that do it for you.  Ads like Sketchers further promote the idea that people don’t actually have to “work” to lose weight, and for most people that is simply not true.  Even the most metabolically gifted will face diminished health if they do not take care of themselves daily.  This Kashi commercial shows being active and eating healthy as an adventurous and fun way to live life!

4)  Use subliminal messages for good.  There is a lot of research on the impact advertising has on children, their purchasing choices and their weight.  Junk food advertisers constantly overexert their efforts advertising to children by encouraging them to eat the next gastric bypass-inducing snack.  The power that subliminal messages have in advertising has always been tremendous, yet typically used for evil versus good.  Why not use this power for good?  While promoting healthy snack products, implement the importance of exercising too.  In the “Quaker Chewy” commercial, the child is eating a Quaker Oats bar while taking a break from running around and playing tag. It’s an effective subliminal message that makes exercise appealing to children by bringing a sports interview to their playground.

5)  Ask yourself: “Is sacrificing social responsibility in your ads worth the message you are sending?”  We supposedly live in a progressive and socially aware era, yet there are still ads out there like this Lynx Soap online video that take us back in social progress 40-50 years.  Everyone has to buy soap, so why create a message that objectifies women and only focuses on a small target market of males who may think this is good advertising?  As an advertiser, you have the power to send a message to audiences that can influence their decisions, opinions and perceptions: isn’t it time we used this power for good?

5 Ways to Create Brand Retention in Ads…And Look Good Doing It

I observed from the recent survey I conducted that many of the respondents could recall the subject of the message, but had difficulty recalling the brand represented in the ad.  This is an obvious problem.  Health promotion advertising has consistently been proven ineffective.  Could it be the shortcomings of their branding efforts?  Brands like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Chik-Fil-A have created a strong enough brand image where you tend to not only remember the brand in ad executions but maybe even remember the content of the ad.  That’s more than can be said for healthy living advertising initiatives.  How can they be more memorable?  How can they do so responsibly?

5 tips on how to be both a memorable and socially reputable brand:

1.)  Don’t brand like your competitors.

Just today I was thinking of a beer ad I really liked and wanted to find on YouTube.  I thought it was for MillerCoors, but as I searched I couldn’t find it.  I figured maybe it was the wrong brand so I starting searching under Bud Light.  Still no luck, I have no clue who made that commercial…and honestly, I have no visual recollection of the logo used in the commercial.  It was just like all the other beer commercials: pretty woman sitting at bar, group of men hit on woman, all drinking beer, comedic ending.  The point is, if you brand like your competitors you don’t stand out.  You’re all selling a similar product, how do you want to be remembered?  Do you want to be remembered?

Also, standing out from your competitors does not mean being the outcast either.  Health promotion initiatives have to be careful with this since they tend to have difficulty retaining consumer attention and generating consumer action.  Messages promoting healthy living products want to be heard, but should maintain socially responsible practices while catching people’s attention.

2.)  Leave room for a little mystery.

According to a study by Fazio et al. (1992), category-brand associations are higher with mystery ads than non-mystery ads for unfamiliar viewers.  With familiar viewers, the difference in effectiveness was significantly less.  Fazio et al. (1992) deduce that, “Perhaps the most salient feature of processing mystery ads is the necessity of the attentive viewer to ask ‘What is being advertised here?’  This should create a greater ‘readiness to categorize’ the brand when its identity is finally revealed” (p.  10).  Mystery  can intrigue the viewer, make them work harder to figure out the brand, and because they work harder, they are more likely to remember.  Make sure your mystery is revealed early enough in the ad for the viewer to remember the brand.

3.)  Include a typeface in your brand, but only if it sets the appropriate tone for your business.

Childers and Jass (2002) found that it is important to understand that semantic associations in typefaces may create memorable images in three potential ways:

(a) through consistent use in a particular situation, (b) through a direct relation with the perceptual qualities generated by the visual patterning of the stimulus, and/or (c) via associations with abstract connotative dimensions (p.  104).

But you have to be careful here.  Failure to select the “right” typeface for your business can cheapen your brand image.  Make sure it incorporates the semantics you want associated with your brand.

4.)  Use emotional words in the tagline.

A study by Nielsen et al. (2010) found that participants demonstrated greater awareness of the advertisement and the brand when highly emotional words were included in the headline of the ad: stupid, selfish, biased, nosy or any “ego-threatening trait” (p.  1141).  The Nielsen et. al (2010) study found that using emotional words in headlines generates greater awareness of both the headline and the brand.  If used ethically, this technique  can distinguish your tagline or ad headline from the clutter.   However, please proceed with caution:

DON’T use taglines that are offensive or stereotypical.  Be responsible.

DO use taglines that create a strong reaction leading to action.

5.)  Make it memorable but don’t make it cheap.

I recently saw a PSA for breast cancer of a woman walking in a bikini around the pool, with men gawking at her close-up breasts.  The PSA used the tagline “Save the Boobs” as a measure to get consumers involved in the fight against breast cancer. Campaigns to end breast cancer are already well-known in the marketplace and while this PSA aimed to connect to people on a different level than previous campaigns, it cheapens what is usually a well-respected cause.  Using lowest common denominator techniques in campaigns will not only cost you points in reputation, but also in respect.  Be creative, but be socially responsible too!

References

Childers, T.  and Jass, J.  (2002) .  All dressed up with something to say: Effects of
typeface semantic associations on brand perceptions and consumer memory.  Journal
of Consumer Pyschology, 12
(2),  93-106.

Fazio, R., Herr, P., and Powell, M.  (1992) .  On the development and strength of
category-brand associations in memory: The case of mystery ads.  Journal of
Consumer Psychology, 1
(1),  1-13.

Nielsen, J., Shapiro, S., Mason, C.  (2010) .  Emotionality and semantic onsets:
Exploring orienting attention responses in advertising.  Journal of Marketing Research,
47, 
1138-1050.

What’s Your Call to Action?

I created and sent out a survey to 13 females asking ten open-ended questions regarding their perceptions of their own health habits and what type of ads they found to be consciously motivating to live a healthier lifestyle.  With a grand total of eleven respondents, I noticed a few trends in their answers:

Motivations from ads to live a healthier lifestyle:

1.)  Organic food seems healthy and if you eat organic you will be healthier

USDA Organic Food Label

2.)  Thin and in-shape models were motivating to get people interested in living a healthier lifestyle

Jennifer Anniston, the quintessential image of an in-shape body

3.)  Someone either doing yoga or wearing yoga apparel in the ad came across as living a healthy lifestyle which was motivating for the respondent.

Clever interactive yoga ad

4.)  Excessive healthy food and exercise commercials have a negative impact on viewer’s perception of their current health.

If you managed to avoid this ad on the TV, radio, or a magazine, they'll find you!

These trends are based on if two or more respondents mentioned a specific idea (yoga, organic, in-shape models) in their responses.

I wanted to focus on the responses about yoga and how it was motivating to exercise if seen in an ad.  With growing popularity in the U.S. since the 1960s, yoga studios have flourished throughout the country. But what stands out as unique in these survey responses is that exposure to yoga practices or apparel in ads can serve as motivation for responders to make a change and start living a healthier lifestyle.  According to Herur et al. (2010), incorporating yoga in one’s everyday lifestyle prevents age-related cardiovascular problems as well as increases mental competency and health.  Yoga’s benefits go beyond just getting in-shape by offering back-pain relief, relaxation, stress-reduction and better well-being.  Herur et al. (2010) discovered that there is a significant reduction in the resting heart rate and blood pressure after 6 months of practicing yoga.

Since yoga is a contributing factor to positive emotional and physical health, and society is filled with people who don’t regularly practice emotional or physical health exercises, perhaps yoga should be used more often for promoting healthier living! Four of the ten respondents either already practice yoga as part of their healthy lifestyle or feel more motivated when they see ads with yoga apparel or practices.  Yoga offers such an array of emotional and physical health benefits, it’s an ideal activity to implement in ads to promote products that promote health.  Displaying yoga practices versus hardcore cardiovascular or weight-lifting reaches a different audience that encourages better health practices.  Namaste.

References

Herur, A. , Sanjeev, K., and Surekharani C.  (2010) .  Effect of yoga on
cardiovascular and mental status in normal subjects above 30 years of age.
Al Ameen Journal of Medical Sciences,  3(4),  337-344.

The Ripple Effect: Nutri-Grain’s Take on Healthy Living

There are a lot of ads circulating that promote eating healthier and exercising, but often suggest a guilty message to viewers. This can probably attribute why these ads have a negligible impact on people living a healthy lifestyle.

Take this Yoplait commercial as an example:

A commercial that was banned for its insensitivity to women who may be suffering from eating disorders, shows a woman guilt-tripping herself about a slice of cheesecake.  She contemplates this decision in her head and will only even consider having a large slice of cheesecake if she jogs in place while eating it.  She decides to have a Yoplait yogurt only after seeing her skinny co-worker take one out of the fridge and attributes it to her weight loss success.

By using this guilt tactic, it may promote one healthy choice, out of guilt, but does not rewire the relationship and association with eating foods that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.  This is where the adjustment is difficult for many Americans.  They don’t have a positive association with eating healthy through diet or exercising regularly, and shaming someone into making a change does not change their attitude about it.

Nutri-Grain takes a different approach to promote healthier lifestyles:

In this commercial, the woman starts her day off by substituting her daily donut for a Nutri-Grain bar, which thereby is the impetus for her to eat healthier the rest of the day and take the stairs instead of the escalator.  This is compared to the split screen that shows her if she had eaten the donut and how she would have continued to make unhealthy decisions throughout the day.

What is unique about this commercial in conjunction with other healthy living ads, is that this one is not using guilt tactics to make healthier choices.  This commercial shows two sides of one woman’s lifestyle: making healthy choices or making unhealthy choices.  But her healthy choices did not originate because she felt guilty into not eating that donut for breakfast, but because she herself made that healthier choice by eating a Nutri-Grain bar.

By making one small, healthy change in one’s daily routine, it will lead to making other small healthy changes.  Eventually this behavior snowballs and turns into a healthy lifestyle.  While it displays making one small healthy choice, it also displays the flip side of how starting each day with an unhealthy routine, such as eating a donut, leads to unhealthy habits the rest of the day and in life.  Making small conscious decisions such as what you eat for breakfast, isn’t such a small choice after all.  It can have a rippling effect and can transform from one unrelated incident to a lifestyle adjustment.  But this is only possible when the decisions come from within, not from peer-pressure.

Sex Sells…Baby Carrots?

Using sex to sell products is nothing new in the marketing world.  Sexy half-naked models on the beach sell perfume, a young couple grinding against each other sells a pair of jeans, and a woman on a bed, seductively eating sells baby carrots. Wait, what?

Baby carrots were invented by farmer Mike Yurosek out of his frustration with constantly wasted carrots that weren’t accepted into grocery stores.  Yuorsek had the innovative idea in the 1990s of peeling the skins off, cutting them into smaller pieces, and selling them in bags (McGray 2011).  These baby carrots (or Bunny Balls as Yurosek called them) were an unexpected success in the marketplace. However, the baby carrot epidemic tipped, and sales drastically tanked.

Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse Farms and previous overseer of Coca Cola in North and South America, noticed that baby carrot sales dropped significantly during the recession (McGray 2011).  People would buy normal carrots as opposed to baby carrots in an effort to save money.  Dunn’s training in the junk-food industry gave him the idea to not market baby carrots as healthy or low-calorie (which they innately are), but as a junk-food snack: “Something that appealed to impulse rather than responsibility”  (McGray 2011, p.  3).  See full article here!

The Baby Carrot ad campaign satirizes the way junk-foods advertise their products and brands, and use these same conventions of sex, stunts and sci-fi genres to promote a new kind of junk-food.  In its new marketing approach, Baby Carrots created three different types of packages: a white package that has “Are you a Fancy Pants?” on the back; a green package with an orange rabbit on the front and “Crunchier than chips.  Orang-ier than cheese puffs” on the back; and a black electromagnetic aesthetic with “The future of snacking is now.  Like right now.” on the back.  These different types of packaging tie into the Baby Carrots mission for consumers to not only see baby carrots as a snack, but a cool one.

Baby Carrots commercials have taken an original approach by appealing the product not as a healthy, low-calorie snack, but a sexy one.  Here the Baby Carrots commercial “Indulge” spoofs commercials like the “Bikini” Carl’s Jr commercial:

  

This ad exploits sex with a female model dressed in lingerie, while sexually rubbing a baby carrot on her arm and seductively biting one.  A female narrator says, “Feel that feeling, you know the feeling” as the model rubs the baby carrot along her arm. Immediately after, a very sensual male narrator ironically says “overt sexual innuendo” as baby carrots are falling down on her, resembling the iconic rose petal scene from American Beauty.  While this commercial is selling Baby Carrots with sex, it does not take itself too seriously.  This ad campaign is merely a marketing experiment to promote a typically not so cool, healthy snack, and use these same conventions used in ads to promote unhealthy junk-foods.

Another Baby Carrot commercial that uses the intense stunt approach to make them look extreme versus a Mountain Dew commercial:

    

This commercial again uses sexploitation of the woman shooting a gun of carrots with an overtly sexual physical gesture. The man pulls off an extreme stunt all to get baby carrots.  Then while they’re already making fun of junk-food ad conventions, they throw in a pterodactyl that takes away his baby carrot to make this ad even more extreme and non-sensical.

The ad “Future” satirizes the often used conventions of science-fiction being implemented in junk-food campaigns.

    

Once again, honing in on the overtly sexualized woman (“enter fantasy of every teenage nerd”) and acknowledging the genre it is using while making fun of it at the same time: “initiate crazy expensive special effects…futuristic cliche complete.”

Will these eccentric marketing efforts work to get Americans to start eating healthier?   In an article written in The New York Times, columnist Severson (2010) responds:

Good luck. Despite two decades of public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmer’s markets and ease of products like salad in a bag, Americans still aren’t eating enough vegetables.  (para.  5)

While this may be a negative outlook, it does raise relevant points.  However, the Baby Carrots “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” campaign is still in its adoption phase and has the potential to spread.  Only time will tell.

How Advertising Soda Can Send a Socially Responsible Message to Audiences

Too much soda is bad for you!  There’s no arguing that too much of one thing is never healthy.  However, having a soda every once in a while won’t kill you.  Coca Cola highlights the “simple pleasures” of having a coke in their ad campaign “Open Happiness.”  This campaign promotes the idea that drinking a coke not only provides a dose of happiness, but that it brings people of multiple cultures in various countries together in this enjoyment.

"Open Happiness" Print Ad

Picture this: you put $1.25 into a vending machine, a coke bottle rolls out into the slot towards the bottom, you grab it out of the slot, twist the top off, listen for the subtle but noticeable sizzle sound, take your first sip of the cold pop and experience the exhilarating “Ahhhh” moment.  I have to admit I have experienced these same effects from soda myself.  My drink of choice was Diet Coke (no calories) and I drank it often and anywhere; you would have thought I was an unpaid Diet Coke brand ambassador.

Enjoying a Diet Coke in the Bahamas

Especially after a rough day, the first thing I did when I got home was walk over to the fridge, grab a cold Diet Coke and “opened happiness.”  Even though the product itself would never affect my long-term happiness, it offered me small pockets, moments, of simple joy.  What I enjoy about this ad campaign is the tagline itself: “Open Happiness.”  Two simple words, but a fairly complex concept for people to remember to incorporate into their daily lives.

In our modern fast-paced society, it is easy to forget to take a moment to enjoy, well, anything.  This campaign targets people to pause their lives for a few moments to temporarily enjoy the goodness of a coke.  This campaign is highlighting emotional wellness by expressing that it is the small things that build and create long-term happiness.  In a society where life comes at you fast, the suggestion of this ad campaign may be easy to take for granted, but it’s relaying an important positive lifestyle message.  While some of the ads in this campaign stretch the point somewhat, the tagline behind it has socially responsible implications.

The Coca Cola commercial “Crave” shows a man sitting in his hot house, seeing a Coca Cola bottle shadow cast by the thermostat.  The man begins wandering the streets, seeing mundane activities as related to opening a Coca Cola bottle.

While Garfield’s (2009) article on Advertising Age describes the music as “eerie” and “kind of a buzz kill,” I see this ironic, yet conceptually relevant music as complementary to this man’s quest, not just for a coke, but for “happiness” (p. 39).  Traditional folklore does not portray quests as happy the whole way through, or sometimes at any point.  A warrior on a quest must experience many trials, tests and temptations before he will ever reach the end of the trek and claim his trophy.  The tense tone of the music as well as the visuals of the cravings in the commercial provide a sensory experience of this man’s quest to “happiness.”

Unfortunately Coca Cola also created the commercial called “Library.”

In regards to “Library,” Garfield’s comments:

Whoa! The first 50 seconds are fabulous, but, sorry, the denouement is either a classic metaphor for coitus or a modern metaphor for intravenous drug use-neither of which famous pauses that refresh having any business within a mile of a Coca-Cola trademark. Are they insane?  (p.  39)

The drug metaphor in this commercial really takes away from what I deem as socially responsible in this ad campaign.

Aside from how each media was presented, responsibly or not, the very basis of this campaign provides some healthy food for thought: enjoy the small things.  Since soda is not the healthiest beverage for you, don’t “open” sugar and hedonistic-filled happiness everyday, but invite or find it in small doses.

A regular 12 oz Coca Cola is 140 calories. A 7.5 oz Coca Cola Mini is 90 calories.

Tag, the New ESPN Sport

How do you get kids to reach for healthy snacks and practice physically active lifestyles too?  Companies such as Quaker Oats are innately socially conscious because most of their products at the very least contain oats. They don’t have to stretch too far to highlight the health benefits of their product.  In this commercial, Quaker Oats displays not only a healthy snack choice for children, but also physical exercise.

The commercial parodies interviews with athletes broadcasted on sports channels such as ESPN by having the young boy saying in an interview setting “man, it was a tough game out there today…” as he is handed a towel from off-screen to wipe off his sweat.  This “tough game” is tag.

In the background of the young boy, are other children running around in the grass playing tag.  All the while, the young boy has the towel around his neck while holding a Quaker Oats Granola Bar, and continuing to conduct his interview to the camera.  What is even more satirical about this commercial is the young boy’s cocky commentary about his performance: “But then, it was dig deep time, and I brought it!  And I struck like a cobra.”

I love that this commercial takes what is socially accepted as a healthy snack in conjunction with physical exercise.  This is a message that is extremely important to deliver to children and parents.  Playing video games, browsing on the internet and watching television are some of the many cultural activities centered around inactivity among children.  It is important to send out as many messages as possible related to getting up and physically playing, because there are far too many influences that promote the couch-potato lifestyle.

How are you going to get your kid off the couch?  Tag, you’re it!