April 13, 2010

Close Up: Teen "PSA" (Pretty Sleezy Ad) Of The Year...

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What Were They Thinking? Maybe this:

Forgive our "tongue in cheek" discourse here. In our view, this "PSA" is best critiqued with Shakespearian-like irony, similar to Marc Antony's "Brutus is an honorable man").

As we all know, the purpose of PSA's is to provide a close-up of important community-based medical issues confronting society, with particular attention in the teen segment.

Recently, Close Up launched a new campaign aimed at youth which many on the street are applauding. A leading agency manager was quoted during an Advertising Week function last week, stating, "The Close Up PSA Campaign attempts to shed light on an all-too-embarrassing physical ailment, commonly referred to as TASTY.. Its communication solution should receive "special recognition" for its creativity and tasteful treatment."

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Those seeking to learn more about this increasingly serious medical condition, TASTY is short for TASTTY-CAKES, a largely ignored compulsive oral-hysteria-based behavior found among sweater-clad American teens.

Medically, TASTTY-CAKES ("TASTY" for short) stands for:



Closer up, not everyone agrees. On one side, Close Up's campaign has been plagued with controversy. Family-values advocates accuse the brand as using offensive and exploitive actions of a sensual nature which promotes promiscuity. They say the campaign is a blatant attempt to sell product using the lowest common denominator.

However, during Advertising Week festivities last week, many attendees expressed their view that it's the exact opposite. They believe the creative approach Close Up used to bring attention to this situation actually reflects the similar values and approaches Madison Avenue culture is known for.

The campaign received much buzz. Agency creative directors and account planners were particularly vocal, commenting that the campaign is mis-understood. They challenge what they refer to as "overly zealous groups" who are not in touch with contemporary American cultural values. "Close Up's efforts are in fact a brave attempt to promote family values. It's an example of the social responsibility of business too infrequently found in the market community today," said one Advertising Hall of Famer.

Disecting the campaign and how it was created to address this rapidly spreading illness - along with analyzing the campaign's controversy - the Close Up art and ad copy is reviewed below. Both sides do agree the ad gets to the heart of the matter quickly. It begins with a simple headline, TASTY, which immediately identifies the problem.

Then, agency execs believe it ratchets up the educational value for teens of how to spot the disease in order to protect themselves, should they be overcome by TASTY when they unwittingly wear sweaters in social settings.

As the "victims" are portrayed in the ad, account planner research claims that the ad illuminates the problem which they have found is concentrated amony teens and young adults, the next generation of leaders, primarily within the 16-24 age segment. Ad placements recently appearing in US Magazine, (where the above ad was found, and other well-respected thought-leader publications were believed to be selected for their reach and high concentration of un-suspecting TASTY-CAKES potential victims.

Creative directors point to studies generated by leading medical research - who are often used to analyze and substantiate many pharmaceutical treatments - detail a more granular analysis of how TASTY is triggered. Here's what they say, "It most often occurs near the end of the week, largely on Friday or Saturday Evenings, when (as the ad details), sweater-bearing victims have either interacted with each other for the first time, or have known each other for (according to research) at least a few hours or more" TASTY then begins to occur later in the evening when teens find themselves in social situations that may unsurprisingly involve alcohol or other substances.



Here’s the disease's pathology:

1. Oral fixation overcomes the victims to attack each other’s anterior portion of the neck, using their [medical definition] fleshy, movable, muscle attached in most vertebrates to the floor of the mouth, [tongue] in a rapid flapping response, aimed at each other’s [medical definition] digestive tract, that lies between the rear of the mouth and the esophagus and includes the fauces and the pharynx, [throat].

2. As the ad sensitively addresses, the sickness increases as subjects begin potentially to de-clothe each other as the Close Up photo depicts, focusing initially on the sweater.

Ironically, for some unknown reason, the disease may later cause jealousy among teenage peers, who were NOT near, witness to, or victimized simultaneously themselves at the same time. This is increasingly referred to as "TASTY Envy".

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That's where the product comes in to play. Close Up in reality actually helps alleviate negative concerns among parents, who can spot if their child was TASTTY-CAKES-ized when they greet them as the child arrives home later in the evening. When interviewed, a majority of parents give vivid examples of their own struggle with TASTY when they were teens. They say this experience enables them to spot the ailment better.

TASTY has also be found to have a delayed impact on victims who may not have confronted their own victimization of TASTTY-CAKES until attending school on Monday morning or at lunch in the cafeteria.

"Verbatims" - from actual TASTY victims surveyed with their parents in the room and/or with friends present - indicate that the product's mouthwash and whiter teeth (and irresistibly fresh breath) empowers them to counter-act strong>TASTY urges so that they can renounce various emotions and thus, help them return to a more civilized and politically correct social posture.

Here's where the controversy enters the picture. Family-friendly groups argue that the ad illuminates the point of departure where promiscuity comes into play, though the brand disputes this. They suggest that Close Up acts as a behavioral stablizer, going to work to help victims at a critical moment. As detailed in the ad analysis below, they point to the copy, "When things heat up, the great taste of Close Up is all you need," thus fulfilling the promise of the product's "just-in-time" protective activation.

I swear, nothing happened.

Many victims were so pleased with Close Up that they have gone on record passionately vouching for its emotion-reducing strengths. Parents are often provided with "I swear, nothing happened" testimonials. This is a frequent response. Then, when "re-qualified" by interviewers (and parents) often the child "re-qualifies" their parents and/or friends with the question, "What, don’t you trust me?" Again, vouching for the product's medical proficiency.

What, don’t you trust me?


Sales results and respect on Madison Avenue for the PSA campaign has been unparalleled, as marketers are rapidly following in a similar manner, copying Close-Up’s break-through direction. They see this approach as a great way to help communicate societal benefits of other products and services they work on.

The most prominent categories seen recently are other personal care categories such as cosmetics, fashion, autombiles and - within the last cycle - Ms. Paris Hilton's recent PSA effort on behalf of the Carl's Jr. QSR chain.

A leading art director and copywriter de-constructed the campaign and provided a more detailed rationale of how the visual and copy compellingly illuminates the problem and the solution. They wished to remain anonymous based on their own victimization of TASTY at various times with each other, with other victims at their agency and with other professionals at various Advertising Week events.

ART DIRECTOR: "The brand group clearly did their homework, relying on a strong use of red, which clearly denotes, "Warning." The facial expressions of each victim appears one of pain or submission, designed to cause "reader empathy." The unfortunate sweater-tearing motions are subtly displayed, as reminders of the harsh reality TASTY has on its victims and their stretched outerwear. The design seamlessly works with the copy to communicate how to spot the effects of TASTY.

COPYWRITER: "I agree. The copy mixes well with the visual to alert the reader of the danger TASTY has to its victims. Using "TASTY." as the headline, it expresses "Caution" or Achtung [non-related antonym: act tongue] and thus, generates sympathy and makes the reader appreciate the harmful and dramatic effects, as well as the benefits Close Up provides when they are helpless to the desease's effects.


LINE 1: "When things heat up, the great taste of Close Up is all you need."

COPY-COMMENTS: I especially like the short copy, which quickly bolsters the ad’s problem/solution format.

LINE 2: "It’s the gel toothpaste with mouthwash that gently cleans to give you a whiter smile and irresistibly fresh breath that lasts when you need it most."

COPY-COMMENTS: The product benefits are obvious, to the point, and reassures readers that using Close Up will empower them to resist the effects of TASTY.


COPY-COMMENTS: This is where it all comes together. As detailed above, the medical research community states that Close Up users validate the product either meets or exceeds their expectations.

Industry researchers reviewed the methodology and informed us that responses from both test groups support the reliability of the data. Interviews were conducted either in the presence of parents upon their return home in the late evening and/or at the Monday afternoon lunch table with friends. Virtually all of the respondents interviewed provided exactly the same "I swear" or "believe me?" responses. This provided even greater confidence in the data.

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With the continued use of this campaign, the brand states goal is to spread the use of Close Up and generate a wider adoption of the brand as a tool to fight TASTTY-CAKES. Family-values organizations have stated that they will boycott the brand and refuse to let their children wear any type of sweater-based fabrics. Special exceptions may apply to 20 degree below temperatures.

Bottom line, our industry fully supports the Close Up team's efforts to educate the public on TASTTY-CAKES. One publisher offered, "it's refreshing to turn the magazine page and see an ad that appeals [as Abraham Lincoln said] to the "better angels of our nature....

"Family-friendly groups have a right to voice their disapproval with great passion, though the view on Mad Ave is that the added benefit generates awareness of this health problem, increases brand recognition, and is an great use of enlightened self-interest.

Upon reviewing the issue objectively, The Madison Avenue Journal believes that the campaign is a true representation of the brand's manufacturer and its shareholders.

You decide.

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