Tag Archives: advertising

It’s National _______ Day!

9 May

If you really need an excuse to party, there are several choices every day you can choose from. However, if you declare today National Archery Day (and it is), if no one knows it… does it really matter? What’s the point?!

Of course, in America, today is Mother’s Day–important for little kids’ gifts, the most phone calls made, breakfast in bed–but ever since it was promoted back over a hundred years ago, it’s the flower industry that reminds us of it every year. The archery industry just doesn’t have as much of a marketing budget to overcome that advantage.

For example, National Bowling Day is August 16th this year. I remember I was organizing an event five years ago at a bowling alley and we didn’t know it was a holiday until we arrived. We just planned to bowl regardless. However, we got free t-shirts, and it was nice… but as encouragement to bowl more, it lacked a lot of oomph.

Arbor Day is even having a hard time getting any traction. There’s an entire foundation dedicated to remind people to plant trees. The last I heard about it was when I was in 2nd Grade and we planted a tree as a class… that was the 80’s. It was April 30th this year… which is probably part of the problem. You’re hitting the end of the school year, and you had Earth Day on April 22nd (just the week before), so to have another environmentally-based holiday is rather hard to get excited about.

Despite the rhetoric, every day is NOT Earth Day, because we only have so much give-a-damn in our lives. Unless your cause is the environment, the rest of us have things to do. We’ve got to go to work, and take care of the kids, and feed the pets, and binge watch that Netflix series. Even if you care deeply about the environment, what are you doing daily to save the Earth? Recycling? Maybe that’s enough, but you’re not going to think about it after a while, and maybe you’ll check your coffee is free-trade, but you won’t care as much about your frozen pizza. You can’t pay attention to everything all the time.

Which is why there are holidays in the first place; one day you can remember to do one thing to make things better. But people have to know about it in the first place. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Awareness Day (today) only works if people have heard about it; maybe shift it to a… not-Mother’s Day date? BTW, it’s a genetic disease that affects kids different ways, reshaping bones, and causing mental disabilities. Important… but shouldn’t it be important enough to put on a different day?

So if you’re going to have a Miniature Golf Day, a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day, or a National Moscato Day realize that the entire point is to advertise that fact, and make sure you get the word out. And maybe not have them on Mother’s Day, because otherwise, no one will hear about it. But I could be getting too crotchety about this. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then since it’s National Buy My Book Day (it’s not), buy one of my books. But if you think that’s a silly holiday, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

You Know What I Was When You Brought Me In

8 May

I love a well-crafted commercial–and insurance companies hire some of the best firms in America. However, the recent GEICO ads bug me, because they hired these personalities to do a job opposite of what they do.

For those who aren’t familiar with this ad series, you can watch it, but here’s the gist. GEICO brings in this celebrity, they start doing their schtick, and the executives say, “You know, that’s really not what we’re going for.” The celebrity does more of that schtick, and the execs correct them again. That’s their “Take the Drama Out” rollout.

Why this annoys me is the concept is first, these are “claims auditions.” If these were anonymous actors pitching their best ad campaign, this would make sense, but these are known people. You know exactly who they are. Dick Vitale is a sports announcer; he says wacky things, he’s big, he’s boisterous, he exaggerates. Then these execs tell him (politely), “Yeah, that’s not what we do…” Then why the #($& did you ask him to come in?!

Billy Blanks is a high-energy exercise magnate; he’s gonna do a workout. Lisa Loeb is a successful singer-songwriter who does catchy mildly-depressing songs. So… it reminds me of when the boss asks you to do something that’s WAY out of your job description, but you do it anyway, and then they say, “Well, that’s really not what I wanted.” Really? Gee, maybe you should have asked the person who’s supposed to do the job to do it!

I’ll admit, part of my complaint is that I really love Lisa Loeb… and Dick Vitale, and I don’t want to see them humiliated on TV. But it’s that tone-deafness that really annoys me. I guess I’ve been in that situation too many times myself, grinding my teeth, because… well, my job is often whatever my boss says it is. A job description is a description, not a list of absolutely do’s and don’ts. Yeah, I could pitch a fit, say I won’t do it, but… that really removes a lot of my boss’s appeal to keep me around.

A pet peeve? Possibly, but considering how good GEICO ads usually are, I find it a slap in the face. Of course, I could be thinking about these too hard–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Speaking of advertisements, check out one of my books. However, if you found this post less than my normal quality, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Let A Platitude Be Your Attitude

5 May

What is the difference between a quotation and a platitude? How can one person hear a cute saying and think it’s profound and another think it’s insipid? Does it have something to do with how it’s communicated?

I was listening to the radio and the same PSA came on for the umpteenth time. It sounds like Amanda Gorman, the current poet laureate, but it’s not be her; someone who is imitating her style. It starts off with “A return to sanity, could it be?” It goes into this poetic reading of the benefits of getting the vaccine and how it will help us get back to normal.

I really hate it.

However, let me do a little metacognition–that means I’m pretentious–thinking about how I think. Why do I hate this PSA? The first thought is my same thought about all PSAs; why do we need this commercial? Do you think people haven’t heard about the vaccine by now? Don’t you think people have already made up their minds about this vaccine? They’ll either get it or they’re waiting for availability or they won’t.

Who will hear this well-drafted poem that hasn’t heard the message already? “Click it or ticket” has been around for decades and yet I still have a friend who will never put a seat belt on. Ever. He’s the only one. The message is out there; you won the argument! Accept 99% compliance. That’s a win.

I think another reason is the repetition. I’ve heard this commercial five times a day; it’s played on this radio station every hour… maybe every half hour… because radio stations are required to play a certain percentage of PSA’s in their ad stream. Also because iHeartMedia charges companies differently for live streams than broadcast frequencies. There’s less advertisers who want to pay that, therefore, more PSA’s to fill the void.

I think the best example of this is music. I like the song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” by Nine Days; everyone else of my generation hates it. Why? Because it was played on a high repetition when it came out in 2000. I love the lyrics, I love the tempo… but I also haven’t heard it a lot. Even now, I’m reluctant to actually play it, because it’s such an earworm, I can play it in my head easily.

My wife suggests that part of the problem is that it’s an unfamiliar style. Then again, she’s bought critical race theory whole; that doesn’t mean she’s wrong in this case. It’s an African-American doing a “performance poem,” which my lily-white ears aren’t comfortable with. The “other” does make things more difficult to accept. I never listened to rap growing up, so when my drinking buddy wants to crank up the rap from my generation, I can’t share the joy that he has about the genre. So I’m not down with it.

So this PSA fails on message, repetition, and style for me. You could judge it yourself. However, I think you remember something similar. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. This post brought to you by Albigensia Press and the Ad Council. 🙂

The Affirmation Industry

10 Feb

After watching the Super Bowl, I found that commercials broke down into easy categories–the local, the network, the humorous, and the affirmational. I may be too cynical, but who are the affirmational ads for?

Having heard interviews with advertising execs, the successful advertisement is the one that 1) grabs your attention, 2) you remember after it’s shown, and 3) you remember what the product was. For me, the humorous ads accomplish at least the first two… and usually I remember what the product is. But usually the second I see “There’s a lot of struggling people out there…”, my brain has already tuned out.

There is so much bad things in the world that I can’t do a blessed thing about that I frequently tune it out. Apathetic? Sure, but I’ve got enough things to worry about in my own life–why do I need to import more? Yet I know that some people get into that. Some people (and I’ve met them) seem to enjoy wallowing in the bad things that are happening in the world. After all, good news doesn’t generate clicks–disasters do.

But I guess that’s the appeal of the affirmational ad. Bad things are happening, but don’t worry, with us working together we’re able to have a happy ending. Yay!

That’s not to say that affirmational ads can’t work for me. In fact, there were actually two “affirmational” ads that caught my attention–the one where the girl whose legs had to be amputated (Hyundai?) and the one with the chapel in Lebanon, Kansas (Jeep). However, I remember the Jeep one better because although I thought the message was good (meeting in the middle), the presentation was terrible.

I guess the Super Bowl–which has a wider audience than the rest of the NFL games–feels they have to appeal to different demographics. Doritos–flavored tortilla chips–goes for humor because making people feel bad doesn’t get people to eat overly fattening foods. (Or maybe it would–who knows?!) The people who want to fight systemic racism feel better about buying… um, NFL games because “they share my values.”

Yes, we’re all against earthquakes. Earthquakes are bad. We should give money to people to fight earthquakes. Okay, I’ll turn off the snark, but I’m curious–what kind of commercial appeals to you? Regardless whether you actually buy it (I haven’t bought Doritos in years), what type of ad will actually make you watch it… and watch it again. Let me know in the comments below!

“And you know me, I’ll have another [ad].”

22 Nov

Radio is a very personal medium; it’s just you and the hosts. Your brain makes you believe that you have a personal connection with the speaker, even though you’ve never met. So when a host does a commercial, they’re counting on that connection… and sometimes it falls flat.

I used “Double L” as my perfect example. As previously mentioned, I listen to two or three terrestrial radio shows, only one of which I listen to live. I get that through iHeartRadio, the ClearChannel conglomerate that bought up 18% of US radio stations. However, iHeart is rather clever, and realized that people listening to Sacramento commercials doesn’t do them any good. So a year or two ago, they set up an algorithm that replaced local commercials with commercials in your market area. However, the average listener has tuned out the glossy ads, so hosts are encouraged to do live reads, which can then be recorded for later use.

It’s a brilliant idea and works very well on stations where you’re listening to that host on their show. However, this is where the cleverness fails. iHeart has decided to take those ads and broadcast them to regional listeners. After all, KNIX is the Phoenix country station–you’re in Phoenix! You must listen to KNIX and know these people!

Here’s the problem – there are 23 AM and 39 FM stations in the Phoenix metro area. I don’t speak Spanish, so 10 of them are out, but that still leaves 52 stations I could be listening to. I only listen to Country when I’m in the bar, so sorry, Double L… I don’t know you.

It almost seems like a violation of radio listener social contract. “Check your Corona Beer stash!” Sorry, LL, I don’t drink beer – I’m a liquor drinker. So yep, my stash remains as it always has… ZERO. I’ve also heard Spanish language ads on my podcast because… well, you’re in Phoenix, right? You must speak Spanish!

James T Harris is another example of this. When he says, “You know how much I love grilling…” Jimmy, I hardly know ye! Of course, if I’m hearing his commercials, it tells me that iHeart’s algorithms are getting closer to the mark… at least, you’re in the right genre.

I learned long ago that iHeart charges advertisers different rates. If you want to be heard just on regular radio waves, you get one rate. If you want to be ALSO heard online, they charge you more. Which is why there’s not as many local ads–they have to fill it with “We’ve gone one on one with Bono to ask him [whatever he’s bloviating about now]!” or “Here’s the top Earth, Wind, and Fire songs you’ve thumbed up!” I couldn’t name a single EWF song with a gun to my head. Sure, when they play them, I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I know that one,” but I’m obviously not their demographic for that. iHeart don’t care… they’re just trying to avoid dead air.

Am I the only one who’s bugged by this? Do you recognize the personal nature of radio – or am I fooling myself? Let me know in the comments below!

Fear of the Big “P”

11 Oct

I respect missionaries – their job is incredibly hard. Conveying a message to people who don’t want to hear it is a skill that is incredibly difficult and demoralizing. Even when it’s something you believe in, it’s demoralizing not to make any progress. Promoting your own book feels like preaching to the unconverted.

“Promotion” is a dirty word. No one wants to be bombarded with ads – eventually, they become part of the background. For example, there’s two ads on this page that you haven’t even noticed. What I find that works is that you want to be catered to; if you feel like you’re being courted rather than lectured, it’s far more effective.

Take elections, for example. Direct mailings – straight to garbage. Robocalls – turned off. Staffers calling you… okay, I’ll listen to you. Staffers coming to your door – I’ll be polite. The actual candidate showing up to your door? Wow!

I’ve voted for someone on my city council purely because they came to my front door and made their pitch. Wouldn’t have voted for them otherwise. I’m going to vote for my state rep, even though I voted against them in the last election, because they bothered to personalize their response to me instead of a form letter. It doesn’t take much to convince me, even though I know it’s probably just a staffer in her office. They bothered to try. I know what a form letter looks like, but you had a real person respond to me – you got my vote.

That’s why I use this blog – it’s a way of promoting my books in a way that… hopefully doesn’t annoy you. My hope is that you get a taste of my writing, you like what you see, and you want to see more. I’ve got plenty of free samples in my Stories page and I keep my Kindle prices low ($1.99) to help make it easy for you to get my books.

So again, I’m going to shill for my new book, Defending Our Sacred Honor, and ask you – what advertising seems to work for you? I can’t approach all of you in person and suggest you read my book. I can’t go to conventions at the moment so I can do that in a friendlier way. I don’t have your phone number (I don’t want your phone number), so what kind of promotions work for you? Doesn’t have to be book related. Let me know in the comments below!

Why You Should Read Sci-Fi

29 Sep

If Christopher Booker is right, and there are only seven basic plots, then why do we keep reading them in the same genre? It’s time to branch out and take a chance… and the first place you should go is science fiction. Why? Because it has a great secret that no other genre has.

The universe is a character.

This can be terribly exciting. The way the author uses the universe tells you everything about the story he wants to tell. Let me use one of my own universes as an example – the Fatebane universe is one of a balkanized space. Every planet is its own government, loosely united in an Association, which means although you have basic human rights, how they’re enforced or applied in different contexts vary considerably. The title character’s job is to defend this Association – who wants to destroy it? Those who wish to consolidate power. So I’m telling a story about the balance between personal freedom vs. desire for stability.

Contemporary fiction is supposedly easier – you already know the universe. You don’t have to figure out what is happening in the world because you live there. And yet… that is a lie. The setting of your favorite “serious” fiction is simply another universe. Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan introduces you to the universe of Chinese older women who live in California; it also introduces you to their life stories, which are set during the Chinese Civil War. The difference between my universe and this one is that… oh, I’ve heard of that.

Mystery writers are constantly trying to build a quirky universe; gardeners who solve murders, Navajo (Dine) detective solving homicides on the rez… all of them are in the real world, but deliberately show you a part of the real world that you’re not familiar with. If you worked at a pizza joint and someone was helping the police with solving death by cheesy crust, you wouldn’t buy it. Because you’re infinitely familiar with the universe.

So what you really want is to discover a new universe.

Since the universe is a character in and of itself, sci-fi helps you do that with ease. To quote one of my favorite authors, John Steakley, the difference between fantasy and sci-fi is “a hobbit or two.” So if you prefer not to learn the tech, fantasy is the same idea without it. Again, how the author constructs the universe tells its own story. So why bother pretending you know the real world and dive deep into an imaginary one?

Let’s take my recent book, for example, Defending Our Sacred Honor. I put at the beginning of a civil war between Earth and its colonies. The problem is that the Terran Confederation Space Force is a science and exploration agency, not really designed for space warfare. So how does an increasingly dominant Earth in a world filled with humans who have overcome death fight this independence movement? Simple… sell commissions to the highest bidder.

I’ve already thrown out three things that might appeal to you. Wait a minute… humans who have overcome death? How did we get that? What kind of society does that create? Why do the colonies want to break away? And how on Earth do rich boys/girls do trying to fight a war that covers multiple solar systems?

Do you start to see the appeal of sci-fi now? Or at least my book? 😀 Of course, I could be off base. Am I preached to the converted? Or is there something about sci-fi that turns you off to reading it? Let me know in the comments section below!

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