Category Archives: Advertising

Bold Choices

“Bold choices take you where you’re supposed to be.”

This is a really great, creative ad that happens to be for Jim Beam. I’m not sure that it works unless you buy that Jim Beam is, in fact, a bold choice. I like it better as an ad for how you should live your life than an ad for bourbon.

I Love Dodge’s Zombie Snowpocalypse Ad


I can’t say how I love this ad. The score is a classic dramatic zombie movie theme and the imagery of people raiding stores in a panic for supplies is also emblematic of the zombie genre. Also, as someone who lives in a city where people panic whenever there is a snowstorm (Washington, DC), I appreciate Dodge’s needling of people who clear out the supermarket shelves of all milk, bread, and canned goods when there’s snow.

Scottevest vs Delta Update

Gear Diary has must-read additional reporting on this saga, including a rebuttal to the notion floated by Delta that Scottevest baited them with an ad the company knew the airline would reject. Dan Cohen writes:

So, in part, I am writing this to set the record straight. Do I think Scott Jordan intentionally baited Delta into this for the sake of the media story and the resultant PR?

Absolutely not.

In fact, I don’t think it, I know it.

How do I know it? Because at my request Scott shared some of his internal business email exchanges with me. This was after I had agreed to report on the emails’ content without sharing specifics. These emails make it clear that Scott went into this media buy fully expecting that SCOTTEVEST would pay for their ad’s placement with the intention of reaping sales from the exposure of the full-page ad.

Scott was surprised when it was rejected, and he tried to rework the ad in a manner that would be more acceptable to Delta but would not compromise the way in which he has positioned his company and its core message. He was increasingly frustrated to find his ads rejected time and again.

The emails I saw make it clear that this was an honest exchange which occurred in real-time, and it went from bad to worse. This was not some plot by Scott to draw Delta into a pissing match, and it is surely not a scandal. [Emphasis in the original]

Cohen goes on to look at some specifics of Delta’s charge – namely that an ad provided to them by Scottevest as “representative” of their ad designs for submission was approved and then Scottevest submitted a different, Delta-specific ad. Cohen provides ample visual evidence to support Scottevest’s claim that the ad submission provided to get them pre-approved to advertise was merely representative, as it was one that had ran in Men’s Journal previously and clearly not designed to target the Delta audience. Cohen notes, “So many reasons were given as to why his ads were being denied that it began to smack of the “spaghetti approach”, where you throw enough possibilities out there and hope that one will stick.” This strikes me as about right. Delta’s responses have been shifting throughout this debacle for them and none really seem resonant. After all, while it’s clear that this fight has been a PR boon to Scottevest, you can’t blame them for taking advantage of Delta’s censorship (which not incidentally takes place to protect their ability to collect millions of dollars in checked baggage fees).

The path of this story is pretty standard: a big company is threatened by a small business and tries to muscle it out of the way. Normally this is a productive prospect for big companies. But when you’re dealing with a new media savvy small business who is trying to talk to a market of frustrated travelers, the dynamics are shifted. As a result, Delta is getting bad press and Scottevest is making a very big name for itself. Delta can continue to try to punch downward at Scottevest, but that isn’t likely to win them many customers anxious to pay for checking their luggage.

I Love Remarketing

I was checking back in at the Scottevest blog to see if there were any interesting updates on the fight with Delta and noticed a line in a product review they had reposted from Gary at Everything Everywhere.

Like many of you, I have heard about Scottevest for a while. They are very active on Twitter, they are worn by many internet celebrities, they get cameos on TV shows, and their ads can be found all over the internet. I’ve wanted a Scottevest for sometime now and that certainly effected my review of this product.

While it’s true that Scottevest does a lot of online advertising, I don’t think that’s what Gary is seeing is what he is casually referring to as ads being all over the internet. It used to be that when someone wanted to have a heavy presence with online advertising, they literally had to advertise all over the internet, through content networks, news sites, social networks and search terms. To do really intense coverage this way is quite expensive and as a result, you don’t see too many organizations or companies doing it unless they have a ton of money to spend on online advertising.

But I don’t think that’s what Gary was witnessing, because I know it’s not what I witness. Instead, Scottevest is using a type of advertising called remarketing (or retargeting). The way it works is that when someone visits a web page owned by the person running the ads – say, Scottevest.com – a snippet of code on the site drops a cookie onto the visitor’s browser which basically tells the Google Display Network  “This person was on this page of Scottevest.com.” Then, as the visitor navigates away from Scottevest.com, they will see ads by Scottevest as they move around the Google Display Network.

There are two net effects of this. First, as Gary and I have experienced, it gives the impression that Scottevest is advertising all over the internet. This makes a customer or a competitor think the company has gone all-in with online ads. It can likely be intimidating to competitors and persuasive for customers. It can even fool journalists into thinking someone is doing an online ad campaign that is orders of magnitude larger than what is really being spent.

Second, because I’ve been to their site, a company know that their ads are almost certainly relevant to me. Zappos goes so far as to show someone remarketing ads which includes the specific products that they were looking at when they visited their store. (They do this with Criteo retargeting, not Google remarketing). I’ve seen Scottevest remarketing ads that specifically include a discount code for people who visited the site that day, but hadn’t bought anything. As someone who does a majority of my shopping online, ad campaigns like this are really appreciated. They show the company running them is interested in my business and isn’t going to give up on me just because I clicked off their site without purchasing. While this can be annoying if the ad creative isn’t on a frequently changed, Zappos and Scottevest both do a great job of rotating their ad creative. The potential to get annoying is certainly there, but it hasn’t happened to me with companies that put real attention into their remarketing campaigns. By way of contrast, FedEx’s anti-union “Brown Bailout” campaign is repetitive and poorly made and a true nuisance to me as I travel the web.

Here are two examples of remarketing ads from Zappos and Scottevest.

Scottevest Remarketing Ad

Scottevest remarketing ad

This Scottevest ad isn’t targeted to a product that I recently viewed  on a recent visit to their site as far as I know. Though I did buy a Performance T-Shirt a couple weeks ago, I’ve been to the site more recently and looked at other items.

Zappos Remarketing Ad

A product-specific Zappos remarketing ad

Here’s a remarketing ad from Zappos. I had been looking at some Keen shoes earlier today (albeit in an effort to game the remarketing system) and as a result, I now am seeing a dynamic content Zappos ad which includes similar shoes from the same brand. I don’t know of any web vendor who’s doing cooler things with remarketing ads than Zappos, though clearly there ability to lots of customized, page-specific, rich media creative is a possible because of their size.

As you can probably tell, I love remarketing ads. I think they’re cool and useful and the companies that use them are pretty smart. The only big problem with remarketing ads is that most people don’t know what they are, how they work or why they are seeing them. It can be scary if a consumer gets the feeling that a product is “following” them around the internet. That said, it is easy to explain how the ads work and why people are seeing them – note that the bottom of the Zappos ad include a link to a Criteo page which answers the question “Why am I seeing these ads?

More companies are going to have to start running robust remarketing campaigns. Failing to do so leaves business on the table, while simultaneously displaying a lack of understanding of how the internet allows you to reach the people you want to reach.

Scottevest vs Delta

Via WalletPop, Traveling clothing company Scottevest is engaged in a very public fight with Delta’s Sky Magazine after Delta rejected an ad which sought to promote the usefulness of Scottevest as a means of avoiding checked baggage fees. Here’s the ad in question:

Scottevest Delta AdThe key lines are the headline and sub-headline, which read “The Most Stylish Way to Beat the System” and “SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing Has Specialized Pockets to Help You Stay Organized & Avoid Extra Baggage Fees,” respectively. According to Scottevest CEO Scott Jordan, they offered to change the headline to “Travel the World in Style & Leave Your Baggage Behind,” but would not change the sub-headline. Jordan reasoned:

When I was told that they rejected our compromise headline as well, I responded as follows in an email, “Frankly, if they object to the ‘avoid the baggage fees’ line, they need to stop charging baggage fees. I don’t think we should change it. We have agreed to remove ‘beat the system,’ but will not change the sub-heading. The fact that airlines charge baggage fees is just that: A fact. We just help make it less painful.”

Jordan went so far as to post his thoughts on the rejection from Delta on YouTube:

One of Jordan’s conclusions from his post explaining the time line of the conflict with Delta really stands out to me:

The bottom line: it became abundantly clear that the airlines would never allow me to advertise a product that costs them money and makes me money. I believe it wasn’t my headline, it was the core concept behind my product that they were rejecting. With that, I decided to embrace the controversy.

There’s really something to this. The No Baggage Challenge has shown that a traveler who is willing to radically alter his or her packing habits can literally travel around the world without a single bag – checked or carry-on. At a time when airlines are raking in nearly a billion dollars a quarter in baggage fees, it’s not shocking that they are threatened by products which reduce the need for checked bags. Traveling without bags is doable, whether airlines like it or not.

But here’s what’s really odd to me about this situation. While Scottevest and Rolf Potts have shown that it is technically possible to travel extensively with only what you fit into the pockets of the clothes you’re wearing, how likely is it that this is something that catches on to the extent that it legitimately costs airlines money? If there are 100 people in the United States that embrace Scottevest and the No Baggage Challenge way of travel in a permanent and committed way in the next year, I’d be surprised. After all, while there has been a proof of concept, realization of it requires a pretty dramatic change in travel choices. Let’s face it: Americans love stuff and living without much stuff is anathema to most of us. This gets back to Jordan’s point that Delta (and likely other airlines) are simply rejecting “the core concept behind” Scottevest, which makes Delta look pretty petty in my book.

Oh and there’s one more wrinkle to this. Scottevest was seeking to advertise in the back of the seat magazine, Delta Sky. I don’t know about you but I might crack open an airline magazine about once out of every twenty-five flights I take, usually if I don’t have printed material to read during takeoff and landing. I have to imagine that while everyone who reads Delta Sky is a traveler, there is a very small market of people who are actively seeking out ways to reduce their checked baggage lifestyle. On the flip side, the controversy over this ad has received massive attention and interest online:

[W]ithin 24 hours, the story blew up. AOL’s WalletPop and GearDiary covered it, many reporters expressed interest in it, over 1 million people saw it on Twitter, as it was retweeted by some social media heavy hitters like @scobleizer, and there are over 230K Google results for delta scottevest ad.

While it’s hard to say for certain, I’d imagine that the people who are reading about this on travel blogs, gear blogs and cost-saving blogs are more likely to be the sort of people who are interested in Scottevest products and will see them as a way to both save money and screw airlines that choose to bully small businesses (and, by extension, their customers) the way Delta is treating Scottevest. This is great exposure for Scottevest and bad publicity for Delta. It will likely lead consumers to learn about a product they didn’t know existed and a way of travel that allows them to avoid spending money on airline baggage fees.