The Good the Bad and the Ugly
The Orkin Man™
Otto Orkin founded the company that would become known as the Orkin Extermination Company. Having formulated a poison bait for farmers to combat rat infestations, at the ambitious age of 14 he borrowed 50 cents from his parents to get his business started.
The Orkin Man is an interesting spokescharacter because he actually represents the company’s service personnel—branding them as highly trained, well-mannered and capable professionals.
Today the company has more than 400 locations in North America and services about 1.6 million customers annually. That’s a lot of Orkin Men!
The RAID® Bugs
On the flip side, S.C. Johnson’s RAID uses the target of its product as an icon—bugs (usually roaches). The name of the nearly 50-year-old campaign is also the product’s slogan and website address: “Kill Bugs Dead.” www.killsbugsdead.com
Legendary animation director Tex Avery was the producer of the commercials, with voices provided by Mel Blanc.
If you’re not familiar, these grubby little villains of the piece were normally portrayed in some sort of conversation of bughood before being startled by an off-camera presence, screaming, “…RAID!” in terror and then exploding in a burst of animated lightning bolts and smoke. Ker-PLOW!
One testament to the success of this brand icon, beyond name recognition or duration, can be seen in another aspect—in a word: merchandising.
You know when you have type designed to look like the thing the word says or means? Believe it or not, there is actually a graphic design term for this: a pibble.
That’s right, a PIBBLE. The inspiration for this term lies in a letter written to a company that produced a design industry dictionary. The letter insisted that there was no term for this common advertising and design device. Upon which it was immediately dubbed a pibble. The creator explains jokingly, “I had long been concerned with the fact that there was no pibble in English.”
Under the banner of capturing attention and creating an effect, how absolutely and offensively repulsive can marketing get? Audience, I think we may have a winner.
They were simply large photographs with a tiny slogan. They pictured people in sexual situations that were blatantly offensive in themselves, but, and here’s the kicker… the people were partnered with oversized deadly bugs. You’ve heard of the bottom of the barrel, well let’s have a look at what marketing and design gets when it looks under the barrel and starts scooping. Last year saw the launch of a campaign of posters created to help combat the spread of AIDs.
One featured a woman and man-sized tarantula, another displayed a man coupling “passionately” with an equally lifelike and oversized scorpion, its stinger poised above his back.
The strategy seems two-pronged:
1) Education: position AIDs with attention-getting symbols of deadliness,
2) Abstinence: failing that, make it so that no one who sees them will ever want to have intercourse again.
To shed some light on how such atrocious pieces came to be, please understand that these posters were, of course, created in France. They read: “Sans presérvotit, c’est avec le sida que vous faites l’amour. Protégez-vous.”
Translated: Without protection, it is with AIDS that you make love. Protect yourself.”
What kind of protection does one have against ads like these? And does it come as a spray or a prophylactic.
“In the beginning,” an ad industry insider once remarked, “there was Volkswagen®. That was the day when the new advertising agency was really born.”
The famous marketing campaign may not have been the very beginning of the revolution the ad industry would soon see, but it was one of the most influential. “Think Small,” “Lemon,” and other ads for the Beetle would soon be receiving double takes across the world, breaking the mental ad filters of readers and viewers. This campaign stands as part of an odd, unfettered creative movement to prove that good marketing could produce good sales.
The ads were stark, focused. The copy for the campaigns were dry, conversational and self-deprecating and they got people’s attention and increased sales. It was so anti-marketing it became brilliantly effective marketing. Owning a Beetle showed off that you didn’t need to show off. People were doing so in droves.
Even today Volkswagen continues its traditional design simplicity.