Well, after the last bunch of TV ads were previewed, reviewed scathingly, and aired anyway, I was optimistic that the folks at Epinions would have learned a little lesson in Marketing. As this is the first of the new ads that I have watched, it appears that they may have learned one lesson, but are still in need of some strong basic marketing guidance. And gosh, I'm happy to offer up my opinion, for no charge!
First of all - I'm not comparing this to the other new ads. As I said, I haven't watched them yet. I just got a George Foreman grill, so this ad appealed to me at first glance. I also wanted to watch this ad objectively. I did, however, watch the previous set of ads (the breast pump, iMac, etc.).
The Grill Ad Basics
The George Foreman ad starts off well. We get a nice introduction to the reviewer, Scott, a young and energetic guy. There is a clear identification of the product being reviewed (the George Foreman grill). He's clear and easy to understand, and there aren't any other major distractions (unlike the breast pump ad). Suddenly, out of the blue, we get a talking belly button, complete with a painted on face. "Mmm, I love hamburgers," the talking belly button says. "Weird," I thought, but kept watching.
Scott's dialogue continues, peppy and convincing, intermixed with more "tummy talk". At the end we get a side by side of Scott's talking tummy and the anonymous assistant's talking tummy. It's bizarre, and probably would have been a little more appropriate if Scott had been showing us the George Foreman grill from his bachelor pad, or his fraternity. I guess this could be the setting, but the ad doesn't establish the location. How many of your friends drop by with their tummies painted? Maybe I just have some pretty boring friends.
There are some pretty basic questions you generally ask when you are setting up an advertisement. These include: Will it catch the viewer's attention? Who is the target audience, and will this ad appeal to them? What message do we want to convey? Does the ad convey the message clearly? Does it leave the viewer with a lasting impression? Is it the right impression?
As a marketing professional, I am probably a little more critical than most people of how well these ads are answering these basic questions. Let's walk through them, one at a time.
Will it catch the viewer's attention?
Well, yes. I am fairly sure that if this ad popped up in the middle of a television show I was watching, it would catch my attention. And to be fair, what really would hook me (make me look twice) is the talking tummy element. You just don't see that very often, outside of Saturday Night Live or shows of a similar genre.
Who is the target audience, and does this ad appeal to them?
Who is Epinions' target audience? I don't have any statistics to back this up, so I'm just making a (fairly educated) guess, based upon my knowledge of the industry. I would think that the primary users of Epinions would be consumers who are online, probably higher income levels, and relatively well educated. That is not to say that Epinions is not useful for everyone; however, to use Epinions you have to have access to a computer, and be able to use it for personal reasons (or sneak in time at work). Since the goal is to influence buying decisions, consumers are probably at least 16 years old, although you may get some younger users, and have sufficient disposable income to spend on products (that they are researching). Finally, the average user is probably fairly well educated (define this however you want!) as they are using an online resource to research products. I am sure that there are users of Epinions from all walks of life, all income levels and all educational levels; and I am not stating anything other than what I can infer about the "average" user of an online product research website.
My guess is that the Grill ad will appeal to individuals with a very open mind, and typically be more appealing to the younger crowd than the more mature crowd. This will probably appeal to High school and college students and even those in their early 20's, as well as some well beyond this with "young" attitudes. For the rest of us who are significantly beyond that point in our lives <GRIN>, I would hope that Epinions will address this in the programming (e.g., run it during the Real World and not during 20:20 or Monday Night Football).
What message do we want to convey?
Gosh, it's a little hard to tell what the intended message is here. I would have said (without the talking tummies) that it was real people talking about real products, and that Epinions.com is a good place to get that information. Throw in the talking tummies, though, and the message is a little more garbled. I think that element adds a "We're young and hip" aspect - at least theoretically - and if they are trying to capture the youth/youthful market, this is fine. As I said, this ad is clearly not geared to the older or more mature (and I include myself in that category) consumer.
Does the ad convey the message clearly?
Assuming that I correctly interpreted the intended message (above), I think the ad does a pretty good job of conveying this message. It's certainly going to catch the attention of any viewer, and the interest of the more youthful viewer. My five-year-old son thought it was hysterical; however, he is hardly the target audience for Epinions.com OR for a George Foreman grill.
One negative comment: I watched this ad six times, with the volume louder and louder each time. After six viewings, I was still unable to clearly understand what the "tummy" said the second time (after Scott shows us how the grill drains out the fat). I'm guessing that this won't deter the more ardent fans of this ad; however, as a marketing professional I hate to see "wasted space" in an ad, and dialogue that is not clearly comprehensible is wasted, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the overall message (Epinions has information about everyday products, by everyday people) is there -- although you have to read the subtitles to get this message clearly.
Does it leave the viewer with a lasting impression? Is it the right impression?
Certainly, this ad (like the breast pump ad) leaves a lasting impression. You just don't see talking belly buttons on TV every day (and I'm not sure that's a bad thing, either). I'm going to have a hard time looking at my grill without picturing a talking belly button for a while!
Amusement, disgust, or confusion are all possible impressions that viewer's may be left with, depending on how quickly they tune into it, and where/when this ad airs. If they hit the appropriate target audience (younger viewers) they will probably leave a good impression, especially relative to the other ads that were considered previously.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I think that Epinions has done a better job with this ad than with the previous round. They're unlikely to offend a lot of people with this one, but they won't charm a lot of what I think are the true "target audience". I would have liked to see a more student-oriented product being reviewed by a student; however, the message is conveyed and the fun/entertainment value is there. If this is placed appropriately during youthful shows, Epinions may do well with this ad for a fairly focused audience. I just don't want to see that talking tummy while I'm eating my oatmeal in the morning.
One Note: My ratings below reflect my personal feelings about the ad; not how appropriate (or effective) I think it might be for a more youthful viewer.
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