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RadioShack debuts Super Bowl ad as spots get more serious

RadioShack's Super Bowl ad featured many familiar and much-loved '80s pop culture icons, including John Ratzenberger, Dee Snider, Hulk Hogan and Erik Estrada, barging into an outdated RadioShack store to take back the technology of their decade. PRNewsFoto/RadioShack Corporation)

Super Bowl Ads get serious

Aaron Smith

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Where did all the bikinis go?

The absence of such bro-centric staples from this year's stable of Super Bowl ads, and a preference for multi-racial, patriotic and small business entrepreneurial themes, seems to suggest that America is growing more serious and more sentimental.

"GoDaddy - another advertiser known for boobs and babes - and what are they are showing? A small business advertising," said Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brand Center. He was referring to an ad in which actor John Turturro introduces an entrepreneur quitting her job to launch a company called Puppets by Gwen.

"She actually quits her job on the air, which is an interesting stunt, but what is every more interesting is that GoDaddy has abandoned their raunchy ways of the past," he said.

He said that ads were more mature this year, seeming to abandon their adolescent themes of the past.

There were several ads that raised eyebrows for their high brow themes: a Coca-Cola commercial that emphasized the multi-ethnic nature of America including Muslims; a Bank of America ad that emphasized a U2-back fundraiser for AIDS treatment in Africa; and a Budweiser ad from Anheuser-Busch featuring a solder coming home from war.

"Emotional gripping messages," said Derek Rucker, professor of marketing for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, naming the Super Bowl ad theme of 2014. "It's time to be powerful in the ad. Companies are trying to get new messages to consumers.

"It could be that we're coming out of a recession and advertisers are trying to re-embrace consumers," Rucker added.

There was also a Cheerios ad from General Mills which continued with its theme of an interracial family.

"Multi-racial people are kind of the last frontier is getting realistic portrayal in advertising," said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing of Villanova School of Business. He noted that the first Cheerios ad featuring the multi-racial couple was considered controversial, but the company went ahead and ran a similar ad on the Super Bowl.

"I think it's conventional wisdom not to alienate any of the target audience," Taylor said. "But we're at a point in American history where multi-racial families are well accepted by most of the population and I respect Cheerios by not worrying about what a minority of the population is thinking."

Fox, broadcaster of the football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., charged up to $4.5 million per 30-second spot. So ad experts felt it was particularly important for advertisers to convey a message that was closely linked to their brand.

Rucker said that most the effective advertiser, on that score, was Radio Shack. The venerable electronics retailer, which has been struggling to compete with newer upstarts, said that it was leaving behind its older 1980s model. The spot featured '80s icons including the wrestler Hulk Hogan, Olympian Mary Lou Retton, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, the sitcom puppet Alf and the horror-show marionette Chucky of "Child's Play."

"I'm a child of the '80s so it was great seeing all the characters," said Rucker. "I remember seeing Alf. I remember seeing Hulk Hogan. I get what was the message was: Radio Shack isn't the Radio Shack you think it is; it's more modernized."

RadioShack, which has been undergoing a brand repositioning for the past year, made one of its most public statements yet with a new 30-second ad in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
The 30-second ad featured '80s icons and “is meant to shed outdated perceptions of the brand for consumers in need of a reintroduction to RadioShack,” according to the Fort Worth-based electronics retailer.


"This is a bold, strategic move for RadioShack, and we're using the Super Bowl as the platform to get people to rethink RadioShack," said Jennifer Warren, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at RadioShack in a news release.
The ad, titled "The Phone Call," features icons from '80s pop culture who show up to reclaim the technology of their decade. The spot opens in a throwback RadioShack store; an associate receives a warning phone call before familiar '80s personalities including Hulk Hogan, Mary Lou Retton, Kid 'n' Play, and Alf, among others, enter and "take back" their technology. What's left is a sleek, modern store looking much like the new concept stores the company has been opening around the country.


RadioShack is also using a more modern technology to extend the message of the commercial: Twitter. RadioShack is hosting a 24-hour sweepstakes via Twitter, which launched along with the Super Bowl ad. The brand will unveil unique '80s-themed prizes via the @RadioShack Twitter account throughout Sunday and Monday. The prizes include a pair of original Air Jordan 1 sneakers, a replica "Beat It" jacket, a 1986 Vision Psycho Stick skateboard, a Cabbage Patch + Rainbow Bright doll set, and a 1987 Porsche 924S.
Consumers who can’t get enough of the ‘80s throwback personalities also can view a special 60-second extended version of the ad, digital shorts in which RadioShack associates teach '80s icons how to use today's technology.


The Super Bowl ad, extended online footage and Twitter giveaway are the first works to debut from RadioShack's new advertising and media partner, Austin-based GSD&M. The agency selected veteran Super Bowl ad man Frank Todaro from Moxie Pictures to direct the "Phone Call" spot.

"We wanted to directly address outdated perceptions of RadioShack, using both humor and nostalgia," said Joe Magnacca, chief executive officer of RadioShack. "We have committed significant work in stores across the country, with design and product assortment, as part of our turnaround effort. And we want to invite consumers back in to experience RadioShack. We love the '80s like everyone else, but it was time to show how we've evolved."
The Super Bowl ad is part of RadioShack's new integrated marketing campaign, which debuts Monday, Feb. 3, and brings to life RadioShack's recently announced brand positioning, "It Can Be Done, When We Do It Together." The new positioning speaks to the brand's ability to collaborate with consumers to help them discover what is possible through technology. - Robert Francis

 

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