Potty Talk

You hear this a lot, when talk turns to ad blocking: it’s not that consumers don’t like ads, it's that they don't like bad ads.

All the industry has to do is improve the consumer experience with faster loading times and compelling creative and poof, away goes ad blocking.

There are only two problems with that theory:

There is no empirical evidence whatsoever to support its premise.

It's wishful, naïve, obtuse and borderline delusional on the face of it.

Near universal pre-roll abandonment, ad blocking, banner blindness and zero click-through rather tells a different story -- namely, that every ad could be 1984, Mean Joe Greene or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and it would make almost no difference. This has all been explained in this space to a faretheewell. 

But let's just say. If the argument is that fetching creative will fetch consumer attention from Satan’s or Ad Block Plus's diabolical grasp, what sort of ad might that be? Well, it either will quickly communicate an irresistible promise (“Make Big $$$ Ridding Yourself of Unwanted Ear Hair”), which generally means sleaze is afoot, or alternately, advertising that itself has the qualities of content. So funny, so bizarre, or so shocking that you simply must watch it and share it. 



Like a viral ad. 

So all you have to do is make a viral-worthy ad.

Uh-huh. That’s like, all you have to do cure malaria. All you have to do is win Powerball. All you have to do is get the cable guy to your house within a 4-hour window. These are highly unlikely events. 

Remember that New Hampshire guy at some carny a couple of years back who spent his life savings trying to win a giant stuffed banana toy? That's the business model for viral advertising. Except that the loser who blew his entire bankroll at least had a giant banana to show for it. Of the tens of thousands of “viral” ads ever made, the number that have ever accumulated more views than a single Super Bowl spot, no matter how much money was spent to make and “seed” them, can be counted on zero fingers.

It's not easy to have a viable commercial message and be phenomenally charming at the same time. It's not easy to metabolize glucose and be phenomenally charming at the same time.

Furthermore, since the goal here is to seduce users into disabling their avoidance mechanisms, all the aforementioned charm, hilarity, bizarreness and/or shock has to be conveyed in about one second, or maybe just in a still thumbnail. This tends to call for drastic action. I mean, you can always throw an iPhone into a blender, but that's kind of spoken for. You can buy a Taboola link to The 19 Worst First Lady Cleavage Spillovers, and then load (or half load) 16 ads while the user is waiting to see Bess Truman. But some frown on that behavior.

Or you can depict a unicorn extruding a bowel movement like a spiral of soft-serve ice cream into a cake cone for little kids to eat. That's an image that'll stop you in your tracks. And it's a real thing you should probably check out right now. It's a commercial for a product called Squatty Potty -- a simple footrest that tilts typical toilet posture to a more natural squatting angle, unkinking your large bowel for a less constricted voiding experience. Of course.

The ad is a little bit of Willy Wonka, a little bit of Pied Piper and a little bit of Sir Murray Kornblitt, Elizabethan gastroenterologist. It features a Joseph Fiennes knockoff in late-Renaissance garb waxing poetic about the most efficient way to void human feces. Imagine the self-conscious weirdness of a Skittles commercial, leavened with the intellectual gravitas of Howard Stern. Then add rainbow diarrhea. OK, I think you're there.

“Squatty Potty makes you go twice as fast or your money back,” says the spokesminstrel. “I scream and you scream and plop, plop baby.”

This, I believe, is what they mean “race to the bottom.”

Now, as a connoisseur of outlandishness, and a former 11–year-old boy, I have a certain appreciation for the overthetopness of it all. Yes, you can grab some attention and make quite a splash saying the word “poop” or other euphemism for feces 14 times in one commercial. And I have long been on the record as believing that news of a product benefit, particularly a novel one, should take messaging precedence where applicable.  

The slogan is “Poop better,” which may not be“Just do it” but has its appeal, especially to the Colon Blow demographic. (I only regret -- as mentioned last week -- that Coke preempted “Open Happiness.”) 

So, yes, from the opening frame of The Wandering Troubador of IBS and for the next almost 3 minutes, this ad fulfills all the dreams of, say, the Interactive Advertising Bureau -- except for, you know, extruding soft bowel movements for kids’ dessert. But a skeptic might say this is a very particular marketing message for a very particular product for a very particular strategy -- namely publicity. Which (witness this column) it is getting plenty of.  

But when it's time for, say, Buick to seduce the audience into paying attention -- oh, crap. There's only so many unicorns to go around.

9 comments about "Potty Talk".
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  1. James Hering from The Richards Group, February 2, 2016 at 12:27 p.m.

    Pinning this one to the reality wall that frames my "office".  So many truths for one article to bear!

  2. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, February 2, 2016 at 1:48 p.m.

    Magazines and newspapers don't have this problem.  The reason: ads in those media were not intrusive.  The reader could opt to read them or not.  Ads on the internet are intrusive, and until a way is found to eliminate this intrusiveness is found internet ads will continue to fail.

    Users are bolcking ads to avoid intrusions into material they want to read -- without interruption.

  3. Mark Paul from Mark Paul, February 2, 2016 at 2:06 p.m.

    I can barely hear you above the din of rice bowls crashing to the floor. 

  4. C. Czeskleba from CZ Media Consulting, February 2, 2016 at 3:03 p.m.

    To me, online ads have always been an obstacle to expeditious surfing, and disrespectful of my time.  Yeah, in other words, intrusive.  Put a hefty price on ad blocking programs though and many ad block users will change their tune.

  5. Mark F Simmons from Mixed Digital - #SmartData Consulting, February 2, 2016 at 4:50 p.m.

    It's a conundrum. Ads are my livelihood but as a consumer, I can easily get turned off if they are placed in an intrusive manner. I have no issue with the presence of ads while I'm surfing, but I don't want them literally in my face.

  6. Neil Mahoney from Mahoney/Marketing, February 2, 2016 at 4:56 p.m.

    I, too, am a long-lived ad man and I don't understand why any competent Marketing pro would waste their money on things that aggravate people.  That ain't smart salesmanship

  7. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, February 2, 2016 at 6:08 p.m.

    Mark hits it on the head...the only people who give a rat's ass about ads are those who buy and sell them, period.

  8. Larry Smith from Live Idea, February 4, 2016 at 7:41 a.m.

    Not just invasive and intrusive, but stupid and useless. Try this game: click on an ad and log what it does for you under the assumption you are in fact interested in the product.

    Is it a landing page (aka, another gate) or an action page (click to buy). Is it useful information, entertaining, persuasive, or some lame video or sales copy? Did it actually take you to a precisely appropriate page to the ad or the generic front door to the company?

    What I've found is the click gives me nothing of value most of the time.

  9. Tobi Elkin from MediaPost, February 4, 2016 at 1:17 p.m.

    Oh yes, if only there were "better" ads.... we'd all want to see them. Uh, not so sure about that!

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