« A Public Service Announcement from Amy's Robot | Home | Who'dat?™: High School Classmates Edition »

August 3, 2004


Misguided Marketing

As an unapologetic slave to marketing, I get royally pissed off when a company spends a hunk of marketing dollars to get something completely wrong. Such is the trouble with the new Citigroup “Thank you” ad campaign, the subject of the most recent Ad Report Card on Slate.

In case you haven’t seen them, the Citigroup ads feature someone in a mortifying situation (A man’s girlfriend demands to know why he hasn’t proposed, a woman in a grocery store asks a fat woman when the baby is due) who gets out of it by blurting “Thank you!” The moral: you don’t have to care about other people. Just throw them a bone once in a while, and they can’t stay mad.

“It confirms our worst suspicions: that companies like Citigroup really don't care about us at all—they just pretend to,” Slate notes. “We at Citi are going to flat-out ignore you (like the squirming boyfriend), or even insult you (by calling you pregnant, when you're just fat). But we're certain that you won't mind at all. Why? Because we'll say, "Thank you!"—in the form of "points" you can redeem for schlock”

Citigroup isn’t the only company confused about the line between kicky and offensive. Since Cingular’s advertising kickoff during the 2001 Superbowl, the company has prided itself on creating an “emotional bond” with customers. Unfortunately, their current misguided subway campaign misses the mark at every level. These print ads aim to convince New Yorkers that folks who are always looking for a deal should keep their unused wireless minutes. But by confusing “frugal” and “cheap” the campaign instead undercuts Cingular’s own product. (Despite repeated attempts, I haven’t been able to photograph the ads, so I’m forced to paraphrase them here):

Ad 1: To keep a rent-controlled apartment, you put up with a roommate who leaves his half-eaten burritos in the living room and his stinky socks on the coffee table. So, why would you give up your unused minutes?

Translation: You’ll put up with a lot of lousy shit to save money.

Ad 2: You rent a car from Newark airport, even though you’re not flying anywhere. So what if it’s an hour in the wrong direction? It’s much cheaper than renting a car from the city.

Translation: Cingular service is totally inconvenient, but it sure is cheap.

Ad 3: The guy at the produce store asks you “inside or outside”? Of course you say “outside”, and besides, the fruit isn’t rotten, it’s just very, very, ripe.

Translation: Cingular service is rotten, but cheap.

Sure, these ads are memorable – but am I busily applying for my Citicard, or signing a Cingular contract? Not likely.

Marketing professionals, don’t talk down to us. We may be frugal, but we’re not cheap.

categories: Business, Culture, NYC
posted by Emily at 4:49 PM | #