Category Archives: cluelessness

The new Lincoln WTF.


I really really don’t understand the new Lincoln campaign.Take this print ad.


Why redheads?

Why make the point that they’re all different and then show only one car?

Which doesn’t look…that different?

Why isn’t the car red?

What do statistics have to do with anything?

Here’s another ad in the series, with a bunch of chefs:


Do you know who they are?

If you do, this car isn’t for you. In fact, no car is for you.

Because you don’t own a car. You take the Q train to Carroll Gardens to eat at Frankie’s 457 Spuntino (those are the Frankies in question, 2nd row, 2nd from right).

If Lincoln wanted to do this foodie version of Hollywood Squares right for the actual target market, they’d have Paula Deen, not April Bloomfield, and Chef Boyardee instead of Andrew Carmellini. Because here’s what happens when you try to get all hipster with your car advertising:

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 12.14.41 PM

But wait, you’re thinking. Surely the Lincoln website provides the, er, deeper engagement with redheads and trendy chefs that we’re seeking.

Not so much. In fact, not at all. But the website does take a dialuptastic two and a half minutes to load, which is more than enough time to click over to

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Stop trying to make “Egg McMuffin” happen.


Like the hapless Gretchen in Mean Girls who wanted nothing more in life than to create a word meme that would take hold with her cohort, McDonalds has run into the ruthless buzzsaw of reality with its widely ridiculed spot:

Making your brand name (or variant thereof) part of everyday language is a quest with a long history, a few successes  (“Fedex it”) and some spectacular failures, like this epic Florence Henderson spot from the 70s:

This approach reached its nadir in the 80s with Jordan Case McGrath, whose Jim Jordan was a proponent of “nameonics” (which is not only idiotic sounding but also a play on the word “mnemonics”–a reference that nobody but a dork like me would know, or should). During nameonics’ brief, disgraceful reign, we got classics like “Deer Park, that’s good water!” and “Renuzit Doozit.”

The rise of social media seems to be prompting a nameonics resurrection, as advertisers try to “go viral.” But it’s not a good idea, as it was not a good idea 30 years ago, and for the same reason: an advertiser may own his brand, but the people own the language. Come up with a branded product or service that’s so unique and indispensable that there is no synonym for it, and the people will add it to the vocabulary with no prompting necessary.

Don’t believe me? Google it for yourself.


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Ghosts in the machine.

Ads, like haircuts and predictions, are prone to looking bad when the world changes in unanticipated ways, which is to say: constantly. The saving grace for ads was always their impermanence.

To everyone except for archivists or hipsters leafing through old issues of Playboy waiting their turn in the chair at Freeman’s Barbershop, ads cease to exist when they stop running. This is a mercy when you have created ads that guilt-tripped women for making bad coffee for their hubbies; or announced the arrival of picturephones prematurely (twice). Unless you stupidly cop to the act in a blog (D’oh!), you can escape history’s judgment.

Not so now. The ease of search and the speed of change make instant and highly visible jokes out of web sites, apps and the other trappings of online marketing. They are ghosts in the machine, orphaned by change.

Here are some of my favorites:

They pulled the product in 6 weeks. The page endures.

You can surf the site. You just can't buy the car.

Seems to be lacking a tab for "hateful diatribes."

I like the "Stay up to date with Michele" part.

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And if this turns into a depression, we’re golden!

CMOs continue to the say the darndest things. Wal-Mart CMO Stephen Quinn had this gem in this week’s Ad Age:

“We were fortunate that this recession came along. It played to our positioning really well.”

Yes, Stephen, it’s true. Wal-Mart was very well-positioned for customers facing job loss, foreclosure and loss of life savings. Nothing like that Katrina thing where all the shoppers were cooped up in the Superdome!

Christ, it’s enough to make one yearn for the return of Julie Roehm.