Insights & Insanity: Beck Says He Turned Down General Motors, Nissan Rubs One Wrong Way

Talk about a marketer failing to consult the desktop encyclopedia of taglines. That's YouTube with its virtual archive of TV spots.

A campaign for Seagram’s ginger ale is plugging the drink as “Crisp, Clean, No Caffeine.”

Very clever. Except, 7UP used the same catchphrase in a series of memorable 1980s commercials featuring Trinidadian actor Geoffrey Holder.

Coca-Cola markets Seagram’s in the U.S. and said in February the campaign would debut with radio and out-of-home ads. At least, one continues to adorn a New York bus stop.

No need to jab the agency, Amex Scullin O’Haire, exclusively. The Coke marketing team should probably have done some refereeing and research, too.

A blog called the “Daily Irritant” picked up on the campaign theft -- is that too harsh? -- not long after launch. The writer wondered whether Seagram’s hoped 7Up fans would get confused and buy the ginger ale instead, or it believed there’s a “huge, untapped” market among an under-30 demo.



Apparently, 7Up's owner (the Dr Pepper Snapple Group) has no problems with the copycatting or doesn’t have the needed intellectual property rights to launch a muscular challenge.

In any case, as a famous tag makes an unfortunate comeback, it’s time for this month’s “Insights & Insanity”:

--Before Glenn Beck left Fox News, there was talk the network was frustrated that major advertisers wouldn’t buy time on his show. Yet, in some cases, maybe it was Beck staking moral ground that was the reason the marketers didn't make it on air.

Beck indicated Tuesday he has declined ad dollars based on principle. He did not specify whether he had enough sway to do that at Fox News (not sure Roger Ailes would be cool with that) or at Premiere Radio Networks, where he still hosts a show. (He certainly would at his own Internet ventures.)

But at Ad Age’s Media Evolved Conference, Beck said one of the more excruciating decisions he has ever had to make was turning down a big buy from General Motors. He just could not take the company’s money as he railed against it receiving a bailout.

“When GM got into business with the government, we couldn’t do business with them,” he said.

Separately, he detailed a quality-control process he undergoes that can keep advertisers off his programming. When a marketer wants in, Beck endeavors to ensure its products are top-quality.  

“If I don’t personally use their product … we do our own homework,” he said. A staff person buys it or in the case of a car, there’s a test drive.

But, if Beck does give marketers the go-ahead and they fail to live up to a brand promise, then he suggested he won’t just ask them to go elsewhere. He will go on the offensive on the air and rail against them as if they were Tim Geithner-loving, EPA-supporting, tax-raising, Tea Party-hating left leaners.

“I’m going to rat you out because you’ve hurt my credibility,” he said. 

--A spot Nissan continues to run involving one of its pickup trucks saving a plane dealing with landing problems just doesn’t sit right. The ad begins with people pointing to a TV newscast reporting the plane’s malfunction. The screen says: “Landing Gear Failure. Emergency Crews On Alert.” 

The newscaster then says “emergency crews are prepared, they’re in place, all we can do now is watch.”

Cut to the runway. “Wait a minute, there’s a truck …”

And, a Nissan Frontier is seen driving onto the runway. The plane’s front wheels land safely on its truck bed.

Newscaster: “This is just unbelievable!”

Yes, it is.

Truck marketers are always looking for ways to show how much weight their pickups can carry. Maybe ideas are dwindling, but Nissan has turned to a distasteful one.

--The Spike network believes live programming is key with viewers’ increased desire to swap social-media messages during programming. This week, the network offered live elements attached to its shows “Auction Hunters” and “Flip Men” as it has before with “Deadliest Warrior.”

Spike is also looking to offer a range of live sports. The network is losing rights to the UFC, but will be able to launch more mixed martial arts programming under the Bellator banner in 2013 or sooner. Bellator has been on Viacom sister network MTV2.

Jon Slusser, a senior vice president who oversees Spike sports, said the network is kicking around the idea of using an iPad app, where Bellator viewers can vote which fighter should receive bonus money during a live broadcast.

Spike is looking at other sports where, like the UFC, it can get involved early on and help build popularity. Slusser said he's interested in competition where the male participants have a certain “swagger.” There are opportunities with the likes of rugby, extreme skiing, mountain biking, etc.

“We have the perfect storm right now,” Slusser said. “We have the young male audience already coming to the channel and learned a lot from UFC and have money to do a broad, rich slate of multi-platform programming.”

--New research from the Jack Myers Media Business Report offers more affirmation about live or linear programming driving social-media conversation. While banter on Facebook and Twitter drives interest, a challenge for networks is to harness the conversation and move it to their Web sites or other real estate they control.

The Myers study found that among 1,000 college-aged students (ages 17 to 21), 76% said they like to interact with friends and others online about a TV show while they’re watching. On-demand viewing would seem to generate less of that.

--It would have been interesting to see Bob Costas’ reaction Monday as he readied for an interview with the lawyer for Jerry Sandusky and an offer came his way. The lawyer for the former Penn State assistant coach charged with sex crimes asked how would you like it if I got Sandusky on the phone?

Well, yes, that would be worthwhile.

And Costas grilled Sandusky, getting many plaudits for his work.

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