Soundbites: Mistake #9 – Great Production That Missed The Mark

This is Mistake #9 of the 12 Most Common Mistakes in Advertising, as presented in On Your Market.

Adam: Welcome once again to BrandingBlog SoundBites with Wizard of Ads partner Dave Young, from I’m Adam Lefler. Hello Dave.

Dave: Hi, how you doing Adam?

Adam: Doing well, how about yourself?

Dave: Great, thanks.

Adam: All right. The last time we were still on the biggest mistakes of the twelve. And we’re on number nine now. Great Production that Misses the Mark. What is number nine, Dave?

Dave: Well, great productions that misses the mark. You know we’ve all seen ads, and we go wow, that was really cool, that was really funny, humorous, whatever. But, what was it trying to get me to do, what product was it representing?

In a simple way, that’s really what we’re talking about, is an ad that you go “wow, that was really cool”, and you can’t name the product. You can’t remember anything. It just made you laugh; it was interesting it was well done. Right? So sometimes, that seems to be the bar that advertiser reach for, and then they scratch their heads and wonder, why their ad budgets’ not working, very well. Does that make sense?

Adam: Yeah, it certainly does. It’s one thing to get people talking. It’s another thing to have them remembering what they’re talking about.

Dave: Exactly, so there’s this story from 1967. Are you familiar with who Stan Freberg is?

Adam: I’ve heard the name.

Dave: He was a big radio guy, he’s the guy who started in the ‘80’s with the concept of radio is the theater of the mind. So, some people might remember, I mean radio stations all over the country, used to play this industry promotional ad about turning lake Michigan into a giant lake of hot chocolate. And the Air Force, flying over dropping marshmallows in, and you know, all of this stuff.

So his point was, that using radio, you can do things that you couldn’t actually do in physical reality. You can create things, and you can do it on a really low budget. If you wanted to make a TV commercial, like that you just couldn’t do it. Nobody could afford to do that. And that was before the days of, CGI. So still that was a problem. And Stan Freberg’s a very creative guy, as far as doing these campaigns that are just kind of over the top.

And in 1967, this is one of his deals. Pacific Airlines, which was a little commuter airline, on the west coast. They hired Stan Freberg, to design an unorthodox campaign. What he suggested was that Pacific Airlines, poke fun at the one thing airlines never mention, which is fear of flying.

So, at Freberg’s direction, Pacific Airlines placed full-page ads in newspapers. And this is verbatim, the copy that was in these ads. It said, “Hey there, you with the sweat in your palms. It’s about time an airline faced up to something. Most people are scared witless of flying, deep down inside, every time that big plane, lifts off that runway, you wonder if this is it, right? You want to know something fellow? So does the pilot, deep down inside.”

I mean can you imagine reading that, and going, oh, my gosh. I don’t think, well I would hope that pilots, don’t have that feeling, deep down inside, right? That’s what they’re known for, is their confidence. And that’s not the message you want to convey to the public, about your pilots, or your airline, so. He didn’t end there; this was a campaign that they took all the way, through to the customer experience, inside the airplane. So he also arranged for flight attendants, to hand out survival kits, which had rabbit’s feet in them.

And they passed out the book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” And when the plane touched down, the flight attendants were supposed to shout, “We made it, how about that!” The airline went under, two months after the campaign started. So, it was a really, clever, creative campaign. Well executed, well done, and it killed the business. And it only took them two months to do it. They were deeply committed to their creativity, to their message, but it was absolutely the wrong message. It was well executed, it was a well-produced plan and it ended up giving people no confidence whatsoever in the company.

So that airline went under in 1967. Stan Freberg, I think he’s even still around. So the point there is it’s ultimately the business owner’s responsibility to make sure that the message, the core values, even if you have a consultant, or an agency…that those core values are being communicated, in a way which meets the customer’s felt need. Not just accomplishing something that’s clever, funny, and creative, and different.

So your goals, instead of being clever, funny, creative, and different, should be informative, believable, memorable, and persuasive. Those are the things that you should be after. So, when we talk about Great Production that Misses the Mark, that’s what we’re talking about. You can go over the top, and make really cool sounding, really cool reading, funky messages, but convince people, to do the exact thing that you don’t want them to do, which is, not do business with you.

Adam: Right, it only took a few months to totally miss the mark, and a company, went right out of business.

Dave: Yeah, so you’ve got to be careful with that. You’ve got to make sure that the messages are targeted in the right direction. So, that’s the biggest mistake number nine. Great Production that Misses the Mark.

Adam: You’ve been listening to BrandingBlog SoundBites, with Wizard Of Ads partner Dave Young. For more information, you can visit Dave Young’s Please feel free to share this podcast, by sending the link or the mp3 with someone, who can benefit from the information.

Thank you again for listening to BrandingBlog SoundBites, with Dave Young.

This podcast and blog post were created using the ShortcutBlogging method.

2 thoughts on “Soundbites: Mistake #9 – Great Production That Missed The Mark

  1. Dave Young Post author

    I’m not absolutely sure that he coined it. But, he is who I remember using it.
    This is the actual ad I was referencing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *