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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Black Sheep of Advertising:

Perhaps it is my checkered past and tough upbringing in the mean streets of schlocky advertising, but I am
just as fascinated by the lords of bad advertising, the black sheep like Ronco, Tom Vu, Girls Gone Wild and Head On who keep our economy going with their school-of-hard-knocks theories that, frankly, can be hard to refute at times.

NYTimes speaks to those shameless, but seemingly profitable guys at (don't act like you don't know...those online banner ads with the hypnotizing dancing silhouettes).

The company, one of the Internet’s biggest advertisers, routinely festoons Web sites large and small with its ads, spending $74.6 million on them in the first 11 months of 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The surprising success of the ads led LowerMyBills to a significant payday: the credit agency Experian bought the eight-year-old company for $400 million in 2005.

Internet companies like LowerMyBills are called lead generators because they take loan applications filled out by customers who click the ads and give them to actual lenders like Citibank, which pay them for the referrals. The company’s success hinges on buying lots of low-cost ad space on Web sites and then persuading users to click.

Matt R. Coffin, the co-founder and chief executive of LowerMyBills, said the company’s ad campaign represented a return to traditional advertising principles rather than an embrace of the latest conventional wisdom.

“Building a brand is often about being different, and we are always looking for new and innovative ways to attract the attention of consumers interested in lowering their bills,” he said.

When asked about what the ads have to do with home equity loans or debt consolidation, Mr. Coffin said: “Our view is that people are crazy about saving money, and when they do save money they are very happy.”

And there you have it. Simple creative brief if I ever heard one.

Jennifer Uhll, graphic designer and creator of the campaigns said her online advertisements for financial companies, including ones she created before and after she worked for LowerMyBills, typically earn around $4 in lender referral fees for each dollar spent on the ad. The average for most lead-generation companies is less than $2 earned for each dollar spent on Web ads.

Timothy Hanlon, a senior vice president at the Starcom MediaVest Group, a media communications firm, called the company a “bottom feeder,” but he added: “The last time I checked, advertising was designed to draw people’s attention. On that level, LowerMyBills succeeds with a gold star.”

An archive at logs the creative executions (surely these are going in your next presentation decks).
And a blog that (wtf?) tracks their creative executions, too!

As that great American poet, pimp and statesman Bishop Don "Magic" Juan states, "don't hate the player, hate the game."

via MIT AdLab and NYTimes


El Gaffney said...

I was developing a theory about "Sucking... [up] to cult status" after the HeadOn spots, but SalesGenie's failure to create even a little buzz from its horrendous Super Bowl ads had made me rethink it. Now NYTimes comes in and tells me Georgio Foreman wasn't the only one grillin' up the lean hotness.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Well, I quote from USA Today (who ranked's SuperBowl ad dead last creatively):

"The sales-lead website generated more than 10,000 new customer subscriptions by late Monday, far more than the 700 it said it needed to break even on its ad cost. "Our ad wasn't supposed to be funny or clever," InfoUSA CEO Vin Gupta says. "It was supposed to bring in subscribers, and it's been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We're already working on next year's ad."

El Gaffney said...

Don't try to get people to talk about it first and then buy it, get them to buy it and then talk about it. Can't compare a 10K base of subscribers (that you have the opportunity to make happy with the product experience) with 1 million YouTube views of a hilarious Robin Williams-esque SalesGenie. Wish we could have run that ad in half the country vs. a more "creative" version in the other half (assuming it had the same potential, market dynamics, etc.) and see those results. I can't let myself believe that there's not a more effective way to use a couple 30-second spots on the Super Bowl. Or better yet, a more creative and effective way to get those results (spending less than 2.5 million bucks)... they said something in those ads that resonated with/was compelling enough to those 10,000 peeps.