January 11, 2012

Anyone who knows me knows I love sports--in addition to talking marketing. My first love is baseball. I still remember watching Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and Jack Morris pitching 10 shutout innings. Baseball isn't played like that anymore. Few pitchers ever get permission to pitch more than seven innings, never mind 10. More and more, the decision to pull a pitcher is dictated not by their effectiveness, but by their pitch count. And while this can be an effective barometer of future success in a game, it is only one variable in the puzzle.

Marketing people can be the same way. They set up arbitrary timelines to "refresh" their campaigns. Now, there can be some scientific basis to it. In the '20s, Claude Hopkins was already measuring how effective his Pepsodent campaigns were, how long they remained relevant, and how long after they stopped running did they remain salient. But pulling an effective campaign simply because it has thrown 100 pitches is anathema to the tough business of people persuasion.

Football can be the same way. Teams will play tough defense for three quarters. Then, in the most crucial moments, they will change to a softer, "prevent" defense. Ostensibly, allowing the other team to be effective, as long as they take a lot of time to do it. How about a team that finally gets a drive going. Then, on their opponents 40-yard line, the punt the ball on fourth down rather than try to build on what they have.

I bring this up because I was recently looking up number one hit songs throughout the years on my birthday. While I was scanning the list, I saw Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" listed under 2006.

It immediately made me think of the NFL fantasy football commercials. Yesterday, I was talking about how using hit songs in commercials isn't always a good thing. And a day later, I run into a glaring exception. The fact that the song is from a one-hot wonder helps temper the use of a hit song. But really, the song works because it fits the commercial so well and juxtaposed to the NFL seems fantastically ironic. It is a perfect marriage.

The thing I really love about this campaign is launched it in 2007. It works. And because it works, they continue to run the same exact ad, with minor tweaks, every year. The fact that the commercials have a short run at the end of the NFL regular season and the beginning of the playoffs helps prevent burnout. Still, even after five years of running, there is no reason to pull this campaign.

You've probably heard this a million different ways. Maybe you like, "Don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs." It is one of the fundamental rules of advertising: Find something that pulls the audience, and keep using it until it stops pulling. In other words, don't punt a good campaign. Clearly, the NFL understands that with this campaign. They found a way to move the ball, and it won't give it away.

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Jeff Francis is a marketing geek who would never refer to himself as a guru. He is that weird sort who enjoys watching commercials and analyzing communication strategies. He is also available for hire and would love to hear from you. So, head on over to the contact page and get in touch.

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