Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Uncle Ben’s and Superbowl Advertising


Brand Winner…

And Loser…


Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Winner:  Uncle Ben’s


Loser:  Super Bowl Advertising



Folks, who says advertising and marketing can’t be good and do good at the same time?

Of course, it can’t be phoney and whatever the campaign –if there’s going to be a public as well as a business benefit—has to be in step with the brand itself.

That’s why Uncle Ben’s is our winner this week.  Stuart Elliott, the advertising and marketing columnist at The New York Times, delivers a good synopsis of what the rice company is doing:

The Uncle Ben’s line of rice products is extending a campaign that carries the theme “Begin With Ben” to a group of consumers who, the brand hopes, are just beginning to cook.

The extension comes in the form of a competition called the Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest. The contest, which gets under way at noon E.S.T. on Tuesday, encourages parents to cook with their children as a way to get children interested in learning about preparing meals and healthier ways of eating.

The competition is composed of traditional and contemporary elements. The tried-and-true aspects include a cash prize ($20,000) and celebrities (Angie Harmon and Rachael Ray).

One modern element is that contest entries are to be submitted in the form of video clips, which consumers will be directed to upload to a microsite, or special Web site.

And consumers will be able to vote for their favorite videos through social media, on the Uncle Ben’s Facebook fan page at

A campaign to promote the contest will start this week. It includes digital ads, a video, events and a public relations initiative.

Also this:

In the video clip meant to generate contest entries, a voice-over announcer explains that “beginning with Ben is about more than just beginning with rice.”

“It’s about inspiring kids and families everywhere to make healthier choices,” the announcer says, adding: “Let’s bring excitement back into the kitchen and take kids to places they’ve never tasted before. Let’s start a movement, one that changes the way the world eats, one led by moms, dads and kids, all having fun cooking together.”

Here’s the point, this campaign makes sense for Uncle Ben’s because since it’s beginnings in the forties, this company has been the white rice with added nutrients food. 

It now makes sense in the face of America’s obesity epidemic to position the brand at the center of a healthy response.  But Uncle Ben’s takes it further by engaging the target market on multiple levels, getting them involved with cooking and contests.  The activity that they provoke fits with the message of active healthy families eating well –while it builds good will, it also builds strong interactive identification with this great brand.

One last mention, Paula Deen.  Deen, the celebrity chef who loves butter and all things deep fried, recently announced that she has diabetes.  Serious brand damage looked to follow since apparently she had kept quiet about it long after she knew…  But now I believe she’s on the right track, embracing healthy cooking and using the crisis to start publicising the problem.  Stay tuned!


Folks, here we go again:

Super Bowl advertising is a waste of money.

Super Bowl ad buys make little
sense from a practical advertising point of view because they violate the” law
of frequency.” Countless studies have shown that for advertising to work it
must be seen by a viewer at least five times with the optimal frequency being
ten. The Super Bowl’s prohibitive advertising spot costs make this frequency

Why do otherwise savvy marketers,
who for the other 364 days of the year believe in the “law of frequency,”
suddenly abandon it? There are numerous reasons: the glamour factor, the
celebrity factor, the showcasing of the “creatives” at advertising agencies and
the hope that a company might just hit some kind of elusive jackpot. But the
jackpot never happens.

Moreover, the hope of many
advertisers to create a memorable or witty spot that gets replayed in
perpetuity on the Internet and thus earns back the huge Super Bowl advertising
expense is misguided. Check out the YouTube viewer numbers for some of the most famous and beloved ads
and you will see that they are anemic seldom exceeding one million views over
four years. Super Bowl ads with an interactive component and contests can offer
limited help.

The main hope for Super Bowl
advertisers is the concept of adpublitizing. Adpublitizing is the creation of an advertisement for the specific purpose of
creating controversy or buzz—both of which will ensure greater viewer frequency
by the use of free media publicity (e.g., talk shows covering the controversy
and inevitably naming the company and the product).

Fact is, a company’s best bet is
to make an ad controversial in a way that doesn’t hurt the company image but
causes the ad to be banned. Then the law of frequency kicks in on the publicity
side and the Internet re-airing side. But this is an incredibly risky strategy
that can easily see a company overshooting the mark and ending up on the wrong
side of publicity.

What about advertisers previewing their ads before the game? I believe they are hoping to increase frequency. But the companies are also showing that Super Bowl advertising
isn’t really about the advertising.  When Anheuser-Busch did this in years past, it might very well
have been about throwing a kind of appreciation “party” for its distributors who,
after all, are the folks that close the sales week after week by getting the
product to the shelves.

I love the ads as much as the next guy, but if I had $3 million dollars to spend, I think I’d spend it somewhere else..

SuperBowl Facts:

1) The most famous ad in Super
Bowl history —Apple’s “1984” ad directed by Ridley Scott of Gladiator
fame— became an icon and introduced so-called “event marketing.” But for Apple,
it spelled the beginning of the end in its personal computer war with IBM and
Windows. In fact, in the year following the big Super Bowl ad, Apple sold fewer
computers than ever.

2) Not everybody watches the
Super Bowl. The same money spent on Super Bowl ads, used instead to reach those
watching other television programs on at the same time, could land almost
double the viewers in the 18-49 demographic.

3) Why does the hype continue?
Because Super Bowl advertising is great publicity for advertising agencies.
(Unfortunately, it’s a poor business decision for their clients).

4) A direct marketing campaign
that invested $3 million in advertising and production costs (the rough price
tag of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial) would generate a much higher multiple
of sales.

5) The cost for one Super Bowl ad in 2010 (somewhere between $2.4 and 2.7
million for a 30-second spot) could buy up to 600 30-second ads in the New York
City market or 800 30-second ads in L.A.

And remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.


TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY— Think before advertising.  Will advertising merely make you feel good or will it do your brand good?








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