Potato-tisement Shakes Up the Idea of a Super Bowl Ad

Confused? So was everybody else.

During this year’s Super Bowl, the Falcons’ loss of a 25-point lead wasn’t the only surprise. While many ads made a splash, this particular one really had people talking.

So the company wasn’t even listed in the ad. And the confusion of the public flooded social media until Cards Against Humanity, the company that makes the “party game for horrible people”, broke their silence.

Just in case you weren’t sure, the people who make this game are really funny. They released a parody article on the publishing website Medium entitled “Why Our Super Bowl Ad Failed”. This fake postmortem detailed, in ludicrous dramatics, their “misunderstanding” on what their audience would want to see. Complete with a graph comparing “most commonly consumed vegetables”, they pull in exactly who they want: people who appreciate stupid, outrageous humor.

Graphic from CAH's postmortem
Graphic from CAH’s postmortem

Considering that at a 30-second ad during the biggest game of the year is $5 million, many firms would not choose to take such a large risk. Well, excuse my language, but Cards Against Humanity has never been a company who gave a damn. So the move, for them, makes absolute sense. A company that prints “poorly-timed Holocaust jokes”, “not giving a shit about the third world”, and the like on their product doesn’t seem to really be in the business of convention. In fact, their money flows from shock value. People don’t play CAH because it’s good, wholesome family fun. A bold advertisement choice for a bold company is really, at this point, what we should have expected: expecting the unexpected.

According to February 2017 numbers from Forbes and EMarketer, 75.1 million people are using ad blocking services.  Click-through rates [1] reflect little public interest in being sold something.  Ads can really annoy people and everybody’s increasingly making this clear.  Because of this, marketers are turning to a method of “anti-ads“. To break this down, let’s look at what it means to be an advertisement: “Paid, non-personal, public communication about causes, goods and services, ideas, organizations, people, and places… advertisements are public notices designed to inform and motivate.”  For example, those J.G. Wentworth commercials are advertisements because I know who to call when I have long-term payments, but I need cash now, AND no one motivates me like a bunch of singing vikings.  However, I, as a 21-year-old, have never called 877-CASH-NOW so maybe other members of CAH’s core demographic, like myself, would be better approached with something unlike this.

Other companies have gone the non-ad ad direction for the biggest game of the year.  Take this Newcastle Brown Ale commercial from 2014 for example:

So that was basically a commercial about how they weren’t going to make a commercial. It’s clever, it stands out, people talked about it.  Great! By not saying “buy our product”, people were then motivated to buy the product.  However, our CAH video takes this concept to a whole new level.  Not only did they not say “buy our product”… we didn’t even know what the product was or who was selling it.  They pushed the envelope and I truly believe it paid off.

If it’s on-brand, a bold move with a multi-million dollar investment can be the perfect choice. Unfortunately, we can’t monitor their stock price (they’re not publicly traded), but if we avoid the whole “profit” goal of a firm, it did something that ads are supposed to do: grab attention and get people talking.

[1] Click-through rate: the percentage of people visiting a web page who access a hypertext link to a particular advertisement






Chance the Entrepreneur

How this entertainer makes whatever music he wants however he wants and still makes money.  And people love it.

I remember the moment that I heard about LimeWire. I got my first hand-me-down iPod Nano from my older brother in middle school and was buzzing to fill it with music from my favorite CDs (particularly Lou Bega’s, which, in my case, had two plays of “Mambo No. 5” and one play of the lesser-known “Tricky, Tricky”, the three tunes comprising the entire track-listing, for some reason). However, I had heard whisperings of a new way to get music online, just by searching and downloading! It didn’t feel illegal; I was just getting the music. I wasn’t walking into a store, grabbing a CD, and walking out without paying. THAT was stealing. What I was doing was not stealing… I was also 11. So give me break.

And that’s probably how it started for a lot of us: alternate, technically illegal ways to download music for free that created the idea that music should be without payment. And if we had to pay, because we, for some reason, couldn’t find a Torrent of our favorite Avril Lavigne song, it was an inconvenience. That’s how consumers viewed and still view the music industry in the modern world. Artists are finally catching on.

You want free music? Chance the Rapper is going to give it to you.

In December of last year, Chance the Rapper made history as the first unsigned artist to perform on Saturday Night Live. Though Acid Rapid came out and blew up in 2013, this kind of notoriety really put him on the map. And then along came Coloring Book, and his work on Kanye’s Life of Pablo, and various other projects. And it didn’t hurt that he was rubbing elbows with the likes of Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and other huge names. Here’s a dude who comes along and restricts himself to no label. He can make the music he wants when he wants with whomever he wants (unless they’re attached to a label that restricts them…).


So he has no label. That means he can do what he wants. He wants to upload his mixtapes to be downloaded for free? You bet your ass that’s what’s going to happen. Why? Because he can.

But realistically… what the hell is a mixtape? Over decades of hip-hop, this term has changed hands and meanings so much that we’re all left wondering how it’s actually different than an album. For now, here’s what it feels like: “album” means you’re on a label. “Mixtape” means you’re not. “Album” means “let’s make money”. “Mixtape” means “let’s make music.” It’s mostly about the aesthetic of the thing, at this point. However, that makes a difference, especially in the way independent artists market themselves.

So how’s he do it? How does this make him money and push him to stardom? Lil Chano from 79th, rapper born Chancelor Bennett from Chicago, relies on the fans. Chance definitely has what one would call a “cult following”. People live and breathe and die for him because they know he’s just a guy out here trying to make music and work for his fans. And people eat that up. The days post-release of his 2016 mixtape Coloring Book, @chancetherapper was retweeting fans that shared photos of hanging his posters around their towns and cities. The guy’s got a street team that will more or less do the marketing work for him. They want to spread the word and get him the success he deserves.

They give him their time, but they also want to give him their money, even if it’s not directly for his music.  They buy up concert tickets, as he plays sold-out shows domestically and internationally, and clamor for his merchandise.  After much anticipation, Chance released his iconic “Chance 3 New Era Cap” for sale and it sold out almost instantly (and it ain’t cheap either, going for $45 through his website’s store).

Chance asks
Chance asks “Hey, why not me?” (in reference to Grammy nominations) in Billboard with a full-page spread

Realistically, the industry can’t shun him anymore for basically doing whatever the hell he wants. He’s gotten spots on everything from Ellen to the ESPY’s. He’s on the radio. He even, after protesting and petitioning, has a shot at a Grammy (unprecedented for an artist whose music is free). He’s in our heads. We want Chance and we’re going to fight for him.

Some artists resist the way music is going. Taylor Swift (comically) fights Spotify. They’ll sue everybody in a streaming whack-a-mole: push one down and another pops up. Chance embraces the modern music industry and understands his audience. There is still money to be made. People are going to download your music for free. You might as well make it easier on them. Gain their trust and they’ll go to the ends of the earth for you. And that’s how he has revolutionized the industry.

The whole point of Acid Rap was just to ask people a question: does the music business side of this dictate what type of project this is? If it’s all original music and it’s got this much emotion around it and it connects this way with this many people, is it a mixtape? What’s an album these days, anyways? Cause I didn’t sell it, does that mean it’s not an official release? So I might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring.”

Chance the Rapper in an interview with Rolling Stone







Is Pizza Always the Answer?

Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve understood something that Urban Outfitters has done. Aside from, “where do you expect me to get $100 for shoes?” I’m often plagued by questions surrounding their business model. For those of you who don’t know, UO has been pretty consistently in hot water over the past few years, putting out clothes that are downright tasteless (and not in a fashion-type way). From blood-stained Kent State sweatshirts (eerily reminiscent of the shooting in 1970) to tops that say “depression” and “eat less”, Holocaust references, racial appropriation, EVEN briefly replacing the “black” option on their website (for color choices in clothing) with “Obama”, you name it, they’ve been there. I’m pretty much always asking, “who made this decision and why?”  Today, I’m asking it for a different reason.

The company is setting its sights on something new… Italian food? On November 16, 2015, Urban released a statement saying that it was to acquire The Vetri Family group of restaurants. The chain is based out of Philadelphia, which is also the location of UO’s headquarters. A direct quote from Richard A. Hayne (UO CEO) in the press release read, “Having known Marc (Vetri) for almost a decade and partnered with him through his charitable foundation, we are honored to have him, Jeff and the Vetri family join the URBN team.” That’s all well and good, sounds like fun to work with your friends… but I wouldn’t call that a valid reason for this decision.

Vetri Family of Restaurants Management Team

Urban stock (NASDAQ:URBN) has been plummeting since before the midway point of 2015. Is it because of their continuously poor business decisions, or simply a market trend away from clothing purchases? Hard to say. More likely the latter (even giants like Macy’s have seen sales slumps). Mr. Hayne explained that they were convinced to partner with the Vetri family’s business because of an upturn in spending on dining. I understand that you want to hop onto a hot ticket item; that doesn’t, however, mean you know enough about the restaurant industry, with your experience in retail, to operate a fruitful food chain.

URBN Stock

It’s not necessarily “weird” when a company branches off into something new. Hell, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sells everything from jewelry to candy to insurance. Unilever owns Axe, Ben & Jerry’s, and Slim-Fast (the last two quite playfully ironic). The focal point here is the WHO attached to the WHAT. Urban outfitters isn’t what I, or most, would see as powerful enough to venture out of their lane. It’s pretty bold of them to assume that they can handle two very different operations. The shareholders seem to think URBN is a bit too big for their britches, too. The day after the announcement, UO stock fell another 7.5%.  Analysts are calling it a laggard stockand understandably so.

Rumor has it, the company may be using this for a Target-type approach. Put the pizza joint in the stores themselves. Combine the apparel and food experiences into one. C’mon, who doesn’t want to spend money on pizza when you’ve just dropped hundreds on clothes?!

At this point, it merely feels like Urban Outfitters is grasping for straws, not even hinting at a real goal. Just saying, “Sales are down? Let’s buy something that IS selling!” doesn’t necessarily work. If it’s a completely new realm for your business, you’re going to have to hire a whole bunch of new employees who actually know a thing or two about it. This decision could absolutely cost them more than it’ll earn them. Guess we’ll just have to see. It’s not like they haven’t proved to be irrational before…

laggard stock: a stock that is under-performing in the market, yielding lower-than-average returns