Chanel’s New Spokesperson is the Pitts

What’s that smell?

It’s Eau de Brad Pitt—otherwise known as Chanel No. 5.

Yes, Mr. Jolie himself has signed on to become the first-ever male spokesperson for the iconic perfume, joining the ranks of Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou, and, of course, Nicole Kidman.

The move has certainly raised eyebrows, given that Chanel No. 5 is, after all, a women’s fragrance. While some industry experts have argued that if any man can fill this role, it’s the perennially sexy Pitt, other critics (at least from my unscientific sampling of comment feeds) have used the words, “smelly,” “old,” and “bearded homeless man.”

Of course, it doesn’t help that every post I’ve read on this announcement features a picture of Pitt looking like a smelly, old, bearded homeless man.

Photo by Georges Biard

However, as Businessweek notes, Chanel is likely not going after Brad Pitt just for Brad Pitt. His endorsement “is a way of saying Angelina Jolie without saying Angelina Jolie,” notes William M. O’Barr, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of ADText, an online textbook about advertising and society.

Sidney J. Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Arizona, points out that with Pitt as spokesman, “There is also the implication that the fabulous Ms. Jolie might use the perfume, and thus be worthy of emulation.”

O’Barr also observes that Pitt embodies the “classic beauty” element that Chanel No. 5 has consistently portrayed in their ads. This would likely explain why they didn’t go after a Ryan Gosling or Zac Efron type, for example.

And, not surprisingly, this unconventional endorsement has already garnered more publicity than your average celebrity fragrance announcement (unless you’re Adam Levine), so there is something to be said for the shock value of it all—especially in a category where everyone and their mom seems to be peddling a scent. (Except for yours truly—it takes all my strength not to gag and pass out when I wander into the perfume section of a department store. Too. Many. Smells.)

Actually, I think this endorsement could work for Chanel. My guess is, Pitt—who is reportedly getting paid seven figures for this deal—will clean up just fine for the ads and give the classic fragrance a bold new flavor (er, smell?) that is still in keeping with their brand personality. In any case, we won’t have to wait long to find out—Pitt’s first spot will hit the airwaves overseas later this year.

Walking with ‘The West Wing’

Ah, the walk and talk.

Remember, West Wing fans? Remember all those long, uncut scenes full of rapid-fire dialogue delivered by staffers winding their way through endless White House corridors?

Here, I’ll give you a prime example:

C.J.: (walking) What’s your Secret Service code name?
Sam: (also walking) They just changed them.
C.J.: I know. What’s yours?
Sam: Princeton.
C.J.: Mine’s flamingo.
Sam: It’s nice.
C.J.: (stopping) No, it’s not nice.
Sam: (also stopping) The flamingo’s a nice-looking bird.
C.J.: The flamingo is a ridiculous-looking bird.
Sam: You’re not ridiculous-looking.
C.J.: I know I’m not ridiculous-looking.
Sam: Any way for me to get out of this conversation?
C.J.: (resumes walking) I’m going to talk to someone.
Sam: (also resumes walking) Excellent.

Well, friends, if you miss gems like that classic exchange, you’re in for a rare treat: Several cast members from The West Wing have reunited to shoot a Funny or Die spot for Every Body Walk!, an online educational campaign to get Americans off the couch and on their feet.

It seems only fitting that this group was pegged to get out the word about the health benefits of walking. Hell, they probably walked the equivalent of the Oregon Trail during the course of a season. The dialogue in this spot doesn’t disappoint, either, with a blatant nod to the too-clever zingers creator Aaron Sorkin is famous for (and one last monologue for President Bartlet to wax poetic about something important and inspirational).

Also, the line about Mrs. Landingham is priceless (RIP, dear lady).

Given that Every Body Walk! is promoting walking as a way to cut the risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and breast, colon, and prostate cancers (translation: this isn’t a campaign to combat childhood obesity), The West Wing is likely to bring a warm smile of familiarity to many members of the adult demographic they’re going after. (One of my friends on Facebook noted that “seeing them in character again feels like home”—a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.)

Here’s hoping this spot sparks a nationwide walk and talk movement. I’ve already staked out an excellent hallway in my office building. (Seriously, it’s a giant circle—we could walk and talk for days…)

You Can Depend on Lisa Rinna

Hi, folks!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a bit—I was stuck in the black hole that is finals. But the semester is finally coming to end, and while this blog was created as part of a class that has officially wrapped, I am pleased to report that Celebranded isn’t going anywhere!

Let us rejoice!

(I’ll give you a minute to let the joy flow you through. Don’t worry. Take your time.)

Hey, speaking of flow (I apologize for this segue)—has anyone seen Lisa Rinna’s new ad for Depend undergarments?

http://youtu.be/KfqwmTQO6LY

It’s been creating quite a bit of buzz—something that doesn’t happen all that often with an incontinence product. Take Jimmy Fallon’s musings on the topic, for example:

All the talk, of course, stems from the fact that Lisa Rinna isn’t really the target demographic for what is commonly referred to as “adult diapers.” She has freely admitted that she doesn’t use the product, but rather filmed the spot, with husband Harry Hamlin, as part of a charitable partnership between Depend and Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps low-income women secure employment.

“[Depend] donated $225,000 to Dress for Success if I tried them on in the commercial,” Rinna told the Huffington Post. “That’s why I did it. Plus, I loved their campaign…I believe women should feel good about themselves and if that means they need to talk about their problems, then absolutely. We need to help each other. I was not afraid to do this.”

Photo via The Heart Truth Fashion Show

I have to admit, I give Lisa Rinna a lot of credit for appearing in this spot, which is part of Depend’s “Great American Try-On” campaign. Even though the charitable angle arguably makes her look good, appearing in a Depend ad—especially at age 48—could still be seen as a rather risky career move. Stars don’t usually line up to have their name associated with adult diapers and bladder control problems. It’s just not…sexy.

Which of course brings us to Ms. Rinna, who struts the red carpet in an undetectable Depend Silhouette undergarment to show women that they can be sexy and confident in spite of a rather embarrassing—though not uncommon—health problem. I think it’s an important message. I also think the ad and product stand a decent chance of eliminating at least some of the shame many women must feel when they purchase bulky adult diapers and then struggle to hide any evidence that they’re wearing them.

I do wonder if it might have been better for Depend to secure someone closer in age—but still hip and attractive—to the target audience (a Helen Mirren type, for example). For the consumer, that kind of celeb might be able to lend more credibility to the product, since she would at least be of an age where problems like incontinence become a bigger issue. After all, Lisa Rinna has the confidence of knowing she doesn’t really need an adult diaper, and it might be a little off-putting to have a women under 50 telling a woman of, say, 70, that adult diapers really aren’t that bad.

But, in the end, that kind of ad probably wouldn’t be generating nearly as much publicity as Lisa Rinna’s spot. I would also guess that even just starting a public conversation about incontinence helps some women feel a little less embarrassed about the whole thing. And, gentlemen—in case you were worried that Depend had forgotten about its male consumers, fear not! The NFL’s Clay Matthews, Wes Welker, and DeMarcus Ware have tried on the brand’s “Real Fit for Men” undergarments to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which is working to find cures for diseases like prostate cancer (which can affect bladder control).

See, guys—adult diapers don’t have to hold you back from wearing spandex, either!

http://youtu.be/XZcXUaT0FgA

Benevolent Bribes

How much would you pay to watch Morgan Freeman spend an afternoon narrating amateur animal videos?

Would you fork over some cash to experience Celine Dion belting out George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex”?

Is catching a glimpse of Donald Trump’s bed head worth a couple of bucks to you?

Thanks to a new site called Charity Bribes, these are questions you may soon be able to wrestle with, all in the name of goodwill.

Created by copywriters William Burks Spencer and Chris Baker, Charity Bribes invites members of the general public to come up with ideas for amusing celebrity high jinks—e.g., Morgan Freeman getting all March of the Penguins on your home video of Fluffy the Cat falling into the toilet—and submit them to the site, along with the name of a charity. Users can then vote on their favorite suggestions, and every 30 days the idea with the most votes is selected as the winning bribe.

This bribe is then used to garner pledges from the public that will only turn into donations for the specified charity if the celebrity makes good on the challenge within the next 30 days. If not, the pledges will be null and void.

What makes this whole premise really interesting is that the celebrity has no buy-in (or, potentially, knowledge of the situation) until Charity Bribes approaches them at some point during or just after their 30-day pledge drive. This, of course, adds a juicy element of uncertainty to the whole occasion.

Photo by David Shankbone

The site’s first target is Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David. As of publication, 70 people have pledged a total of $7,452 in the hopes that he will join Twitter. If he does, the National Resources Defense Council will receive a nice donation.

“We think it’d be awesome. He would have millions of followers,” Baker said in an interview with BuzzFeed. “On Curb [Your Enthusiasm], he’s always been a bumbling idiot when it comes to tech. It’d be funny to see him on Twitter.”

Baker and Spencer have openly admitted they have no idea how they will get in touch with Mr. David once the pledging window ends on Friday—and as of yet, if the star has heard about this project, he hasn’t reached out.

When it comes to creating bribes like the Twitter challenge, the site’s founders have set some ground rules to keep things functional and aboveboard. These specify that a good bribe:

  • is something awesome
  • is easy and inexpensive for the celebrity to do
  • is verifiable and has some “end-product” that is produced
  • is creative
  • is not crude, offensive, mean, or endangers anyone’s safety
  • is fun
  • benefits a worthy charity that is established and reputable
  • benefits a charity that either the celebrity has a history of supporting or makes sense given the nature of the bribes

Launched just last month, Charity Bribes has already attracted a fair amount of publicity, although its success will likely hinge on the results of the first bribe or two. If Larry David doesn’t pan out, it looks like the next challenge will dare Conan O’Brien to interview a guest on his show while wearing an eye patch and turtleneck, holding a pipe, and insisting “I don’t want to talk about it” if asked about his getup (in this case, to benefit Autism Speaks).

I have to admit, I really like the Charity Bribes idea in theory, and there is certainly the potential for this to pay off for all players involved—the charity gets money, publicity, and a celebrity endorsement; the celebrity boosts his own brand by being a sport and doing some good; and the public at large basks in the glow of being part of a collective charitable effort.

That being said, I also have a few reservations about the endeavor, the first being that it seems a little, I don’t know…icky?…to treat charitable giving almost like a game show. I don’t have a problem with the “fun” aspect of it. Fun is great! Hell, what school principal hasn’t agreed to hit the dunk tank if her students raise $X for their local walk to end hunger, save the rainforest, adopt a dolphin, etc. But it just seems wrong somehow to gather, say, $25,000 in pledges for the ASPCA, and then shrug your shoulders and let it slip away when Sarah McLachlan doesn’t feel comfortable performing a concert dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog. (Yes, I just made that up.) It also has the potential to make celebs look like the bad guy if they don’t or can’t come through, which seems a little unfair given their intentional absence from the whole process.

Of course, on the plus side, this unique approach might also attract folks who don’t normally donate to charity, and if it works, I bet a lot of those people would find themselves becoming repeat donors through other amusing Charity Bribes challenges.

Since the site is barely a month old, there are still some kinks to work out—such as the fact that they are not currently registered as a 501(c)3 charity and can’t guarantee that donors will be issued receipts from the featured charities (although they are working on this). I’m also wondering if the 30-day time limit for completion of the challenges will ultimately be extended, because it does seem a little rushed for folks who likely have some pretty hectic schedules to keep.

In the end, I do hope the crazy, feel-good element of this idea results in some real benefits to worthy organizations and some amusing publicity for all concerned—because seriously, I would pay to watch Morgan Freeman recite just about anything. (Like a Twinkie, like a Twinkie…)

Martha Stewart Really, Really, Really Wants to Zynga-Zig-Ah

Friends, do you like online gaming? Have you built your own virtual farm/city/empire? Have you ever hand-stenciled your floor tiles or made drapes out of old corn husks dyed in blueberry juice and baby squid ink?

If you answered yes, hold on to your papier-mâchéted hats…because Martha Stewart has arrived in CastleVille!

Yes, everybody’s favorite lifestyle guru has partnered with Zynga, the world’s leading provider of social game services, in a unique celebrity collaboration that will have computer-literate crafters everywhere jumping for joy.

For those unfamiliar with CastleVille (full disclosure: I’ve never played it, even though my fascination with the British monarchy would suggest otherwise), it’s a popular social game played on Facebook or at Zynga.com in which players can build their own kingdom, interact with their friends (who also have kingdoms), and meet whimsical characters—like Yvette, the Lovely Maiden, and Quinn, the Lyrical Traveling Bard—who are part of an overarching storyline. Players also have the opportunity to go on quests and fight off enemies. (Remember when people got beat up for playing Dungeons & Dragons? My, how times have changed…)

Launched just five months ago, CastleVille is played by more than 26 million people each month and is part of the Zynga stable of games that includes CityVille, FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and the Alec-Baldwin-approved Words with Friends.

This brings us to Ms. Stewart, who is inviting players to visit her new, limited-time-only digital kingdom from now until mid-April. (Believe it or not, it’s home to CastleVille’s largest building, which is an ode to her Bedford, New York principality house.) Once you’re there, you can interact with Martha’s avatar, join in an Easter egg hunt, and build a crafting gazebo. You can also receive in-game rewards and marvel at how cyberspace has miraculously shaved 40 years off Martha’s visage.

“I love playing games,” said Martha, in a recent press release, “but I love being in a game even more. Turning my personal domain into an imaginary and fanciful kingdom is not only fun for me and the players of CastleVille, but a clever way to share my particular style of living with an interactive and creative audience.”

Photo by David Shankbone

I must admit, I was intrigued that 70-year-old Martha Stewart decided to take a leap into this emerging medium. After all, when I think about her brand, visions of Macy’s, Kmart, and the Hallmark Channel dance in my head, not cutting-edge social media platforms.

But, it turns out that many folks in Martha’s core audience can be found lurking in the digital kingdoms, farms, and frontiers of the social gaming universe. Research has shown that women make up over half of casual social gamers, with over 60 percent of them falling into the 40-plus age bracket. And, considering Martha’s more traditional platforms have been running into some trouble lately (i.e., The Martha Stewart Show has been given the axe by the Hallmark Channel and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. is being sued by Macy’s), maybe it’s just the right time for the Camp Cupcake veteran to try something new.

Equally as important is what this partnership means for Zynga. Tech site SlashGear calls Martha’s virtual endorsement of the game “a resounding voice for how successful Zynga has become in such a short time.” In addition, Martha’s core audience—skewing older, with disposable income—is in a position to help drive sales for the company, which earns most of its revenue from selling virtual goods inside the games (e.g., love potions, tiaras, topiary unicorns, etc.).

This collaboration also suggests that social gaming is really starting to be viewed by more traditional brands as a viable platform for engaging with their audiences online. (After all, why simply read Martha Stewart’s Twitter feed when you can join her for egg decorating?) And with the social gamer population expected to top 68 million players by the end of this year, it seems likely that more and more cross-promotional efforts like this one will be coming to a virtual world near you.

So strap on your Queen Bee Tunic, buy yourself a Friesian Horse, and join in the fun, folks. This party’s just getting started!

T-T-T-Tebow and the Jets

Last fall, as my indoor volleyball team was getting clobbered during a particularly grueling match (as a tall girl I am required by law to play either this sport or basketball), we noticed that the opposing team kept converging in a circle in the middle of the court after big plays, kneeling on one knee, propping up an elbow, and resting their foreheads on their fists. Over and over again. While one of them took pictures. None of us knew what to make of the situation and figured the team had hit up a happy hour beforehand.

Photo by Clemed

The following day, a fellow teammate sent around a link to a story on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow by way of explanation, and “Tebowing” officially entered my vernacular.

Now, the New York Jets have signed Mr. Tebow as their backup quarterback in a trade with Denver (following the Broncos’ much-hyped acquisition of Peyton Manning), and as a resident New Yorker, I have found Tebow-mania creeping into my consciousness once again—something that doesn’t happen all that often with football.

As Tebow makes his way east from Colorado, many have wondered aloud how the openly devout Christian will mesh with the more jaded, less religious, and rather vice-heavy city of New York. Not surprisingly, this question is also crossing the minds of marketers who are looking to cash in on Tebow’s rising star.

“Tim Tebow can be the king,” said Ronn Torossian, CEO and president of 5W Public Relations, in an interview with the Daily News. “There is no bigger place to shine than in New York City and I think the Tebow brand is one that transcends sports. I think the guy can get unlimited sponsorships in New York City.”

The Daily News reports that this sentiment is naturally echoed by executives working for the brands Tebow is already signed with, like Nike, Jockey (check out their new Lincoln Tunnel billboard featuring Tebow), and EA Sports. These endorsements are worth a cool $1 to $2 million a year, but they are still a far cry from the $10 million and $15 million in deals nabbed by the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on an annual basis.

And yet, while some marketers predicted Tebow could reach the $10 million mark himself with his awe-inspiring winning streak last season, others noted that the quarterback’s evangelical views could be an obstacle. For example, in Tebow’s most notable endorsement to date, he appeared with his mother in an anti-abortion ad by Focus on the Family during last year’s Super Bowl :

Kevin Adler, founder and president of Engage Marketing, admitted to AdAge that while Tebow’s religious convictions wouldn’t immediately eliminate him as a choice for endorsement deals, they would give him pause.

“I have a brand right now that we are talking about putting a face on a campaign, and there are strategic reasons why a quarterback would make sense,” he told the publication back in January. “But when we talk about Tebow, it doesn’t make us cross him off the list but we sure do have a little more conversation about it.”

Steve Herz, president and founder of IF Management, a broadcasting and marketing representation firm specializing in sports and media personalities, also sees potential hang-ups with Tebow’s devout Christianity, particularly in the Big Apple.

“He will have a hard time being accepted for his outward religiosity,” Herz told the Daily News. “New Yorkers don’t wear their religion on their sleeves like they do in parts of Colorado.”

Photo by Clemed

Still, there is something about Tim Tebow that strikes a chord with believers and non-believers alike. And while not everyone attributes his meteoric rise to a divine influence, many are still moved by the power of his faith, whether or not they share it. They are drawn in by his humbleness, his unadulterated enthusiasm (he apparently said the word “excited” 45 times at his press conference yesterday), and his ability, by all accounts, to truly practice what he preaches—especially in an environment that isn’t exactly conducive to avoiding the temptations of sin.

In other words, as Huffington Post contributor and NFL writer Barbara Bruno so eloquently noted, “Tim Tebow is the human embodiment of home, hearth, and apple pie.”

And in a world where football players have a tendency to shoot themselves in the leg, participate in dog-fighting rings, and find themselves embroiled in sexual assault scandals, apple pie isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“As a marketer, you want somebody like that,” Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, told AdAge. “He doesn’t have the same kind of negative backlash as other players.”

Of course, if he brings victory to his new team, some of these questions will inevitably become far less important.

“New York Jets fans won’t care if he believes in Hare Krishna if he wins,” Herz quipped.

Well, Mr. Tebow, they say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Godspeed, sir.

No Moore Photoshop!

Demi Moore has had a bit of a rough year.

The 49-year-old star is going through a very public divorce from husband Ashton Kutcher; she recently completed a stint in rehab following a bizarre whippet-induced seizure-like episode; and her new campaign for Helena Rubinstein cosmetics has already garnered a great deal of criticism for that evilest of advertising evils—Photoshop.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

It goes without saying that many women would kill to look like Demi Moore when they hit the half-century mark, so why the folks at Helena Rubinstein felt the need to airbrush the star to within an inch of her life is rather puzzling.

In the words of E! Online reporter Bruna Nessif, “It’s freakin’ Demi Moore. How much do you really have to fix?”

Well, Bruna, according to Life & Style picture editor Craig Gunn, apparently a lot.

“Without seeing the original photographs I can only speculate,” admits Gunn in an interview with the UK’s MailOnline. “But it looks as though the skintone has been heavily airbrushed, with quite a thick application of the brush. Doing this gets rid of all pit marks, pores, moles, blemishes and fine hairs on the face to create a smoother look. In Demi’s case, they have left nothing behind.”

Gunn goes on to further detail likely enhancements to Moore’s cheekbones, eyes, chin, hairline, and facial shape.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

“It’s a slightly alien effect,” he says. “When you start taking away people’s skintones and smoothing out their features, they look like mannequins. You’re removing the human elements of the face.”

If you compare the images in the ads with this photo of Moore from the premiere of her film Margin Call last October, it’s pretty easy to see what Gunn is getting at. Not surprisingly, the comment feeds of several articles on this issue are riddled with folks exclaiming they didn’t even know it was Moore in the photos. Others noted they thought the ads featured burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese (who’s 39).

This actually isn’t the first time Helena Rubinstein has caught flack for excessive Photoshopping of Demi Moore. Two years ago, the brand came under fire for performing the same magic act on the actress’s  face in a perfume ad—a move that looked even worse after a picture from Ashton Kutcher surfaced on Twitter, featuring Moore in an almost identical shot (where she resembled a real person).

Photos via Helena Rubinstein, Ashton Kutcher Twitpic

Look, I get that Photoshop isn’t going away anytime soon. And if folks want to use it to remove a pesky pimple or stray hair, I really couldn’t care less. But on what planet do folks truly want to see an ad with a famous person in it—a person renowned for her ageless beauty, no less—who has had virtually every feature of her face erased and replaced?

Please tell me it’s not planet Earth.

With advertising watchdog groups cracking down more and more on Photoshopped images, I am keeping my fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, situations like this one will start to become a little less common. In December, Procter & Gamble pulled a CoverGirl mascara print ad featuring Taylor Swift in response to criticisms over the product’s misleading claims (Swift’s eyelashes were digitally enhanced). And in the U.K., a similar issue with L’Oréal ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington forced that brand to withdraw misleading images.

Photo via Helena Rubinstein

In Moore’s case, these ads are so far gone in terms of editing that it’s highly unlikely anyone will believe Helena Rubinstein’s products will make them look anything like the star—after all, she doesn’t even look like herself. But at the end of the day, this whole episode does stand as yet another sad reflection of the unrealistic standards of beauty perpetuated by the fashion, cosmetics, and entertainment industries—something we’re all sick of rehashing, but that still exists nonetheless. Even if we know that humans don’t actually look like mannequins, these kinds of images do send a message that any “flaws”—a wrinkle! a scar! an ounce of fat!—are problems that should never see the light of day. (For a particularly chilling anecdote about Photoshop and impressionable young minds, check out this post from my classmate Carol Gosser’s blog, Confessions of a Suburban Supermom.)

As rumors circulate about Moore’s own struggles with growing older (and the eating disorder and drug use that supposedly accompanied her growing insecurities), these ads are like a giant slap in the (digitally enhanced) face. And, of course, they certainly don’t make the general population of “regular folk” feel any better.

After all, if Demi Moore isn’t beautiful enough to appear in a make-up ad, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Mr. T and Old Navy Best-Tees are Besties, Fool

God, I miss the 80s.

The fashion. The music. The neon. So much hairspray. So many laser-beam school portrait backgrounds.

Ah, the Punky Brewster-ness of it all.

Now that you’re aware of my unabashed love for the most tubular decade ever, you can imagine my delight at seeing Mr. T as the new spokesperson for Old Navy—wait for it—tees!

Yes, everyone’s favorite mohawked gold-chain enthusiast is here to save us all from sporting uncomfortable, boxy T-shirts. In the words of B.A. Baracus himself: “I sympathize with the fool who wears a scratchy tee.”

The spot getting the most buzz features an infomercial spoof with Anna Faris, who admits that she was a “real dillweed” before Old Navy’s reinvented Best-Tees changed her life:

http://youtu.be/fTWTl-6qSSE

Mr. T and Ms. Faris are perfect fits (OK, at first the pun was totally unintentional, but then I decided to leave it in) for Old Navy’s signature quirky ad style and the brand’s current “Funnovations Inc.” campaign. More importantly, these ads seem to address very directly—and effectively—the issues that Old Navy was called to task for in 2011 after a disappointing first half.

Last August, Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc. (which comprises the Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta brands), noted in the company’s second quarter earnings call that while he was pleased with Old Navy’s latest, improved product offerings, recent marketing efforts—namely the “Old Navy Records” campaign—hadn’t been as effective as everyone had hoped.

“The message, while people thought it was good and they remembered it, it wasn’t anywhere near the call to action needed to get somebody into the car and make a trip to Old Navy,” Murphy observed. “I’m disappointed in the leadership that we’ve been unable to get enough people and the customers we target to come in and see what [our chief creative officer] has actually put into the store.”

Nancy Reagan and Mr. T. For real.

With all that in mind, I found myself becoming an even bigger fan of the Mr. T spots as I watched them on YouTube. Using humor, these ads focus heavily on the attributes of Old Navy’s latest product and handily convey that these tees are a revamped version of a clothing classic, worthy of a second look. (Don’t you want to take a jaunt over to Old Navy today and feel a softness greater than baby chicks, kittens, and puppies on your skin?) Plus, these T-shirts are not only comfy, but they will flatter you in ways no ordinary, boxy tee ever could (thanks to the sculpting power of Mr. T’s trillion-and-a-half-dollar Best-Tee Machine). After all, just look at how they manage to complement the figures of everyone from models and actresses to fake doctors and big ol’ Mr. T himself! It’s fun for the whole family!!

At two minutes in length, the infomercial spot in particular is quite effective at driving these points home (over and over again) by disguising the whole thing as one giant parody. And, of course, Mr. T’s floating head gruffly instructing viewers to “Go to an Old Navy store, right now!” serves as a final—and awesomely appropriate—push for the call to action.

Frankly, I am PUMPED about going to Old Navy to check out a T-shirt. I mean, it’s just a T-shirt—the most basic item of clothing on the planet—but the visuals, jokes, and originality of the ads succeed in making me believe (or at least “strongly hope” enough to venture into a store) that this latest version of an Old Navy tee is actually different than the status quo and truly stands a chance of resolving the very real tragedy of ill-fitting T-shirts. (Seriously, folks, this problem has turned me into a dillweed on occasion—when you bring 20 items into the dressing room and only two fit, tempers flare.)

Sounds like this is exactly the kind of reaction Glenn Murphy is looking for, no?

Adam Levine Smells Like Mean Spirit

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine recently got a very public reminder that sending your personal musings out into cyberspace sometimes comes back to bite you in the arse—like a digital boomerang of regret.

Last week, the musician and coach on NBC’s talent show The Voice announced that he will be launching new fragrances next year for men and women, called “222″ (his lucky number and the name of his fashion line and record label).

This would be all well and good if Mr. Levine hadn’t taken to Twitter a year ago to express his disdain for star scents:

Of course, this passing sentiment might have remained hidden among his countless other thoughts and feelings and dreams—if it weren’t for Christina Aguilera. (If I had a nickel for every time a sentence ended with those exact words…)

Yes, Levine’s fellow coach on The Voice—and a celeb with her own line of fragrances—took to her Twitter feed following the 222 announcement to call out her colleague on his hypocrisy and link to his March 2011 tweet:

Levine soon responded to Aguilera’s comments—which he called “funny and silly and friendly”—with another admission that he does, in fact, “hate the idea of a celebrity fragrance, absolutely, 100 percent.” But, he counters, “I want to do a thing that’s never done properly.”

I think Elizabeth Taylor just rolled over in her grave.

http://youtu.be/_LGFmhVMyCM

In the end, I don’t think Mr. Levine’s little slip-up will really do much damage. If anything, it’s given his fragrance a great deal of publicity already—and it won’t even be launched for another year. Plus, I think the folks who would actually buy 222 care more about looking at (and, I guess, smelling like) Adam Levine than about giving any real thought to what he says. After all, part of his persona is wrapped up in being a d-bag, so this whole episode is really just par for the course.

In the words of Levine himself: “’You wouldn’t be a complete band without a slightly cocky frontman, would you?’”

Mission to Mars: Snickers Wins Twitter Victory

Morning, luv.

Today’s post is brought to you by some news from across the pond, so please feel free to read it with a spot of tea.

And a British accent.

(Doesn’t it make everyone sound just a wee bit nicer?)

Anywho, in another sign of our tweet-filled times, Mars, the maker of Snickers, just avoided getting into hot water with the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a marketing campaign it launched on Twitter back in January. The campaign, featuring British stars such as model Katie Price and footballer (or, as us Yankees would say, professional soccer player) Rio Ferdinand, used a series of curious tweets from the celebs to play up the Snickers tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Photo by Phil Guest. Some rights reserved.

For example, Katie Price, who apparently rose to fame after appearing as a topless model in a British tabloid, sent out a bunch of tweets on international finance to her 1.6 million followers. (Get it? Models don’t usually talk about big complicated things like economics, silly.):

“OMG!! Eurozone debt problems can only properly be solved by true fiscal union!!! #comeonguys”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ferdinand took to the Twitterverse to discuss his newfound love of knitting with his 2.3 million followers, which of course goes against his manly manly-man persona:

“Can’t wait 2 get home from training and finish that cardigan”

The campaign ran into problems, however, when folks began to complain about a lack of transparency with the tweets. Just like U.S. regulations, U.K. industry standards indicate that sponsored tweets—like the ones sent by Price and Ferdinand—need to disclose in some way that they’re ads. This is often achieved by including hashtags like #ad or #spon. In the case of Snickers, while the celebs sent out a series of five tweets within a short period of time (about 90 minutes), only the last tweet—which was accompanied by a photo of each star with a Snickers bar—indicated that it was part of a campaign:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUk#hungry #spon…”

Photo by Tim Ellis. Some rights reserved.

Now, in its first Twitter-based ruling, the ASA has decided in favor of Mars, although it disagreed (rightly) with the company’s reasoning that the first four tweets were not marketing communications because they did not include any actual mention of the product.

Instead, the ASA declared that the earlier rounds of tweets were teasers that helped make up an “orchestrated advertising campaign.” But, since they appeared in quick succession, with the final tweet labeled appropriately, the organization found that consumers would be able to recognize that the tweets were, in fact, ads.

This ruling will likely help pave the way for future innovative campaigns in the social media sphere—a realm where, once again, the law is struggling to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of technology. I think it speaks volumes that the ASA was willing to view this issue with an open mind and avoid sticking to cut-and-dried regulations that will inevitably have to evolve with the times.

Of course, these situations aren’t without their hang-ups, as James Kirkham, managing director of Holler, a digital content and social media agency, noted in a piece in AdAge:

“Loyal followers might start to feel hoodwinked if their favorite Twitter user is regularly tricking them with tweets crafted by the brand or a PR agency,” he said. “Social media is reliant on transparency and honesty, so audiences will have limited patience when it comes to tweet tricks such as this.”

This is certainly a very real concern that brands cannot overlook as they trample over one another to blaze new trails in online media. But this ruling does give them some breathing room to continue blazing those trails, which is essential as companies face the ever-present challenge of changing business models in the digital era.

Meanwhile, this situation is also a reminder that in a world where consumers are increasingly open when it comes to their own lives online (as anyone who has had to read in-depth status updates on potty training and stomach viruses will tell you), those same people will expect their brands to be just as upfront about their practices, as well.

Innovation is one thing—deception is another.

For brands that discover how to strike this delicate balance—and do so with panache—the marketing possibilities are endless.