Hamburgers and Hamsters

TSTA few years before I retired from Big Industry, an enlightened Division Manager decided that all his executives, including Principal Engineers, needed to learn about marketing.  He enrolled us in a ten week Executive Marketing Course at an unnamed university** in Los Angeles where we learned how to do market research and and conduct advertising campaigns.  I got to participate in a focus group, testing the market for electronic tire pressure monitors among Harley Davidson owners.  I learned how to design advertising for different market segments and I learned about target demographics.   It was all very interesting … and a great deal of fun … but since we only dealt with the Department of Defense, which told us exactly what they wanted in specifications, it was pretty useless information.  Sometimes, though, it all comes back when I watch the advertisements that make it to TV.

And that’s the topic here on Top Sites Tuesday #251 … those commercials that make me wonder.  Could this possibly be based on market research?  Would any focus group of sane individuals say, Oh, yeah.  This would make me buy your product!  I know, I know.  I’m almost 70 years old … I’m nobody’s target demographic.  But it’s hard to imagine exactly who some commercials are designed to reach.  Let me give you an example … McDonald’s, a company that specializes in commercials that try to appeal to the cooler market segments … and fail miserably … recently released this beauty which is enough to make me change the channel in the middle of a playoff game.

Why, exactly, should anyone care about this couch?  What is random about it?  Is it a random couch or is it random red?  And who are those people bouncing around on the random red couch. tells me they are hipsters, a term I never learned in marketing class.   Urban dictionary, my occasional guide to things modern tells me hipsters, are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter Thought Number One: At McDonalds?  Nah.  No one’s going to buy a hamburger because of this nonsense.

Here’s one more, though, that makes Random Red Couch look like a marketing masterpiece.  Meet Sprint’s Frobinson Family, in which the sanest of the group, Mom, gets giddy over tacos, the daughter speaks only French and is continually surrounded by butterflies, the younger son sounds like someone out of Deliverance and the Dad is, of all things, a hamster with a New York accent.

This may be one of the most incomprehensible commercials I’ve ever seen, yet the Sprint Newsroom calls the Frobinsons an all-American family as quirky and unique as your family and the stars of a new advertising campaign.  On exactly what planet is the Sprint Newsroom located?  To be entirely fair, AdWeek says, If the spots are well written, the characters will come to life and the premise will quickly seem endearing; if not, the work could just as quickly be in trouble and Sprint’s Friends and Family (Framily) plan seems to be a success, bringing a million new subscribers to Sprint in its first 40 days.  But … Thought Number Twoif that’s because of these commercials, I’ll have to conclude that that rumors of an alien takeover of the human race must be true.

** OK, I’ll admit it.  The course was at UCLA.  If my alma mater, USC, finds out, I may find my degrees revoked.  Don’t tell anyone, OK?  But please click my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #251.  And tell me the commercials that bug you most in my comments section.

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8 Comments on “Hamburgers and Hamsters”

  1. Derek Zenith Says:

    I know what you mean. I just took on a series of ads from a local car dealership in which the sale of automobiles is buried in a steady growth of gimmicks and cheap props. “Eye-catching” seems the final criterion these days.

  2. Trina Says:

    Those have to be the worst and most pointless commercials ever. First, hipsters don’t eat at McDonalds, they eat organic. Second, the Frobinsons are horrible, it’s like Disney on acid selling phone plans, are who are they marketing to?

    Commercials like those make me happy I don’t watch much TV and that when I do I have Netflix.


  3. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud,

    There’s no way their target audience is my age group either. Both commercials are terrible!

    And how does a red couch have anything to do with a dollar menu or a hamster dad anything to do with a phone plan? BLEH!


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