‘Let’s take a picture of a bikini model wearing a penguin head!’

I saw this ad today in Southwest’s in-flight magazine. It’s for a bar in Las Vegas:

In case you can’t see it, it’s a picture of a woman in a bikini, wearing a penguin head.

I saw this and I thought, that’s weird, and then I thought, this picture didn’t just happen by accident. This was a conscious decision. This was an artistic choice. Someone at the ad agency had to say, “Let’s take a picture of a bikini model wearing a penguin head!”

And the client — a bar where everything is made of ice — had to say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, because who wouldn’t want to hang out in really cold bar with a bikini model wearing a penguin head?”

And no one had to listen to the guy who said, “Guys, this is weird. We’re trying to convince people to see a bar where everything is made of ice! Shouldn’t we just show the bar?”

And everyone else had to say, “No! Bikini girls are a great way to sell things to guys, and it’s cold, so she’s wearing a penguin head! It’s a strong visual! It makes you stop turning the page and read the ad!”

Which is true. I read the ad then took a picture of it and blogged about it, but only because I think it’s weird, but, then, what do I know about advertising?

Marketing 101: If you can’t think of something nice to say, say something obvious

Here in the United States, things like milk and orange juice usually come in gallons and half gallons and quarts and pints. One gallon equals 128 fluid ounces.

This is important to the story.

So’s the fact that marketers are always looking for something, anything, to distinguish their product from the competition’s, which is hard when you’re talking about a commodity like orange juice. One half-gallon of orange juice is pretty much the same as any other.

Still, if you’re in charge of selling more orange juice, you have to come up with something, so the marketing whizzes at one supermarket chain came up with this:

In case you can’t see the photo, it says “HALF GALLON,” and there’s a red balloon with the words “STILL 64 FL OZ,” which is short for “fluid ounces.”

Of course, it’s 64 ounces! It’s one-half gallon! If there are 128 ounces in a gallon, there are automatically 64 ounces in a half-gallon! This is true of the competitions’ half-gallon cartons of juice, as well.

Oh, don’t misunderstand. I bought the juice, but I didn’t buy it because there were 64 ounces of juice in the half-gallon carton.

I bought it because it was cheapest, which you’d think would be reason enough to pick one brand over another, but, as often happens in life, no one asked me.

This could be the saddest name for a product, ever

This was sitting in the break room at work. It’s a dishwashing liquid called non-ultra Joy.

I can’t think of a sadder product name.

It’s so underwhelming. They didn’t even bother to capitalize “non-ultra.” On the label, it says, “non-ultra Joy.”

That’s like calling a product not-quite Happy or not-terribly Enthusiastic.

It sounds like an example of Newspeak from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. It sounds doubleplussad.

Sometimes on “Mad Men,” a show about advertising executives on New York’s Madison Avenue in the 1960s, the characters describe the essence of a product, what it means, how it makes you feel. It isn’t a suitcase so much as a promise, for example, a promise of travel, perhaps, or a promise of romance, of hope. I picture the whiz kids at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce looking at this product and going, “Meh.”

Wikipedia says Joy has been around since the 1940s and comes in two strengths: “ultra,” which is concentrated, and “non-ultra,” which isn’t. Wikipedia doesn’t explain why P&G didn’t go with a name that’s more enthusiastic than “non-ultra,” like “non-concentrated,” or “regular” or maybe “ordinary.”

Don’t misunderstand. I have nothing against non-ultra Joy as a product. It’s perfectly good dishwashing liquid. It does a great job of cleaning our coffee mugs. It’s good stuff, this non-ultra Joy, but the name makes me think I’ll find something better if I just keep looking.