Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Negative Brand Hijack Hall of Fame Inductee: NY Times Ad

In Insight on February 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

For years we here in New York have seen the New York Times television ads featuring super hip and smart New Yorkers extolling the virtues of the Paper of Record. Here’s the official (short) version:

The thing is, it never really rang true. The people in the commercial look like, and act like, well, actors. The inauthenticity was recently noted by Grant McCracken and PSFK points to a clever parody by the 92nd Street Y that is currently making the rounds:

The tragedy here is that, the New York Times is still a really terrific product. They do have some of the best writers and they do cover a wide spectrum of topics, usually in a thought-provoking, compelling or unique way. But all that is brought down by their ad.  Here’s the same ad, only using real people:

Ok, clearly these people are not actors, but I believe that they actually read the paper.  I’d love to see this taken a step further. Real people in their own words. That would be so much more powerful. A diverse group of people passionately explaining why they like the Times. It would be easy to do, in fact, how about a spot on the Times website for reader testimonials? Reader videos talking about their favorite reporters, sections, stories, etc. A great opportunity for the Times to create a community. They already have a robust video section on their site, just add an area for readers.

Further Reading: Great story in New York Magazine about new blood at the Grey Lady.

 

UPDATE 2/10/2009: Just received an email from Dan Dove, the ringleader behind the ‘real people’ spoof above. He sets the record straight on some details of that spot:

I’m the editor of the Weekender spoof you wrote about that featured “real people.” You’re both right and wrong. We aren’t actors…that much is true. But the fact is we all work for a cable company and one of our networks airs that spot endlessly. We all know it by heart and after about two years of watching it, dissecting it, dreaming about it, and eventually loathing it, we decided to “spoof” it by doing a shot-for-shot (as best as we could) remake of it using our own staff members.

As far as I know, none of us read the NY Times – we’re in DC – and none of the “actors” in our spot subscribe to The Weekender.

So, while you’re incorrect that we actually read the paper, I’m pleased that we did a good enough job recreating the spot to convince you that we cared. I’ll pass your article on to the staff.

Thanks Dan, and great job by you and your crew.

  1. “Negative brand hijack” sounds like it deserves a jail sentence. I was expecting more drama! But in this case, perhaps “parody,” “satire,” and “being silly” are more appropriate terms.🙂

    The vid is hilarious and I can’t but help think that this would have absolutely no negative impact on brand equity.

    $0.02…

  2. I did a focus group project for a client years ago where the client wanted to use the videotape for training. Two problems: 1) we did not have the respondents permission and 2) the quality of the video was awful.
    They tried to reproduce the same scenes using actors, and felt it completely lacked authenticity.

    A better plan would have just been to talk to more of their customers and get permission to video.

    It’s too bad when a brand that clearly has fans all over the world doesn’t just leverage some of that loyalty.

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