Milk needs to advertise, but bananas don’t?

Via Tyler Cowen, Matt Yglesias asks:

Why is it that nobody’s marketing broccoli and bananas? This stuff is sold in stores, in exchange for money. Presumably there are for-profit enterprises out there with a vested interest in selling more.

Tyler mentions the “Got Milk” campaign as part of his argument that broccoli and bananas lack “branding”; I take his meaning to be that those two particular items are too staid for their agents to invest marketing dollars in. Anecdotally, that seems unlikely– other consumer goods that lack intrinsic excitement are often over-marketed in order to increase their perceived status. I wager that toilet paper advertisements are some of the most frequent on TV, and among the most common within certain targeted programs. Yet, that is because- not in spite of the fact- that toilet paper is clearly not one of the more exciting consumer goods.

Using the “Got Milk” campaign as an example, I feel the opposite is the case here– that is, sometimes products which want to overcome (at least partial) negative or staid brands choose advertising as a vehicle for delivering counter messages in support of themselves. In the case of “Got Milk”, I personally perceived that entire campaign as the milk lobby’s attempt to quash the disparate, growing negative brand surrounding milk.

Part of the negative brand surrounding milk is a result of direct competitors, which is another clear motivation for using advertising to differentiate. While soy and almond milks have gained popularity, with soy in particular slowly shedding its purely “health” brand, bananas and broccoli have no such emerging competition; companies are not likely to introduce innovative, healthier new fruits and vegetables anytime soon.

While advertising can certainly signal vested interest, it can often be deployed as “make-up” for a product; in the absence of advertising then, it may not be that the distributors of bananas and broccoli have no vested interest in their products; just that their products are successful enough, or unique enough, on their own without the help of overt advertising.

My entry into ‘The Office’ promo contest

NBC and YouTube are holding an open compeition for people to submit :20 promos for “The Office“, recently nominated for 3 Emmys including Best Comedy. Up to 10 winners will have their promos aired on NBC this fall.

I’m a huge Office fan, so with the help of my brother-in-law and my wife, I submitted a promo to the competition. Technically, the entries are supposed to be kept private on YouTube (which mine is), but I’m also posting it here.

The rules of the contest are pretty strict: Original footage only, no clips from The Office, and only one NBC-supplied graphic, as well as The Office theme song, were the only stock provided.

With that in mind, here’s my entry- just click the “play” button on the video to watch it (you must have Flash, and you’ll want the sound on). If you want to submit your own, go here.

UPDATE: The video is now available. Please feel free to send me comments, suggestions, hatemail. Shoot…it appears the video won’t work because it’s currently set to private within YouTube, per the rules of the contest. So I’ll have to wait until tomorrow, when the contest ends, and then I’ll make it public and show it here. Sorry!

‘My Life, My Card’ campaign launches mesmerizing short film

Checking out Jason Calacanis’ site, I noticed a link to an amazing commercial that aired during this past Sunday’s Oscar telecast. I meant to post about the ad myself but it was lost in the shuffle, before I found it again. When I first caught this spot during the Oscars, I was simply mesmerized- for the entire two minute length- a virtual eternity for TV advertising- I sat there, continually freaked out in an entertaining way. Not recognizing the star of the spot, for most of the time I was convinced it was a promo for an upcoming TV show until the reveal came at the end.

The “commercial” was just that- a commercial- but it was also a 2-minute long short film for the American Express card directed by and starring M. Night Shyamalan, director of The Sixth Sense among others.

The commerci-short is part of the credit card giant’s “My Life, My Card” campaign, which I’ve already admired via its print iterations in Entertainment Weekly. Its print counterparts, while not as captivating, are classy, understated spots that feature interesting black and white photos of celebs (such as Ellen DeGeneres brushing her teeth) and personal comments from them.

Besides the genius of the ad, American Express and whoever its agency is are further proving they “get it” by posting the ad on the homepage of the campaign’s website,, for all to see.

Take two minutes and check out this amazing commercial/short film. If you admire Shyamalan’s unique brand of upscale spookiness, you’ll really dig the spot.