Monday, August 4, 2008

Apparently We Are Missing The Digital Revolution

This weekend I saw two commercials that really intrigued me. They caught my attention not because of what they were selling, or how well, or poorly they were executed, but because of what the commercials suggest about the advertisers perspective on their customers.

The first ad was for Flomax, a prescription medicine targeted at male urinary symptoms. The ad ran during Larry King Live.

I would have missed the ad entirely were it not for one of the last things the announcer said. He implored readers who wanted more information on Flomax to check out their ad in *Popular Mechanics*.

They did not provide a URL or suggest that people Google Flomax. They apparently believe their customers are more likely to go out and buy a copy of Popular Mechanics and search through it for the ad, than they are to seek out Flomax on the Internet.


The next ad’s intriguing perspective was a bit subtler. It was for Western Union Money Transfer, and it ran during MSNBC’s Countdown with Kieth Olbermann. Western Union is a service which allows a sender to take money to a Western Union affiliated location, usually to a local check cashing spot or supermarket, and then allows a recipient to pick up the same amount of money at their local Western Union affiliated location.

In this ad, one of the key benefits to using Western Union is how fast the money gets to the pickup location. Apparently Western Union must use some *really fast* non-computer based delivery system to get the money from one location to another. Perhaps, say, carrier pigeons. I say this not with any insider knowledge, but because if they were actually using computers, it would not be at all impressive for a computer to credit one account with, say, $100, and debit another account with same in, perhaps a second or two.

So by my estimation either Western Union doesn’t use computers, or perhaps they just believe it more likely their target audience has entirely missed the digital revolution.

Nah, that couldn’t be it.


  1. I think companies like Western Union deliberately delay transfers keeping the money for themselves to earn interests that don't really belong to them (it's not their money).

    That's why I think "doing it faster" means "we don't keep your money for too long".

  2. what are you doing watching Larry king or Olbermann

  3. Anonymous,

    Good question. But perhaps if I watched *more* often I could have alerted the world to these dangers sooner :)

  4. Hank,
    Don't forget the clientele that Western Union and Flomax primarily cater to, and the networks on which and shows during which these ads aired.

    For example, the primary users of Western Union (asides from scammers) are the unbanked. These are people who have to go to supermarkets or to check cashing centers to conduct their "banking" activies. For them, Western Union is extremely fast, considering that their other option for sending money is mailing a money order. And, I would bet that the vast majority of Western Union locations are servicing clients who are sending money out of this country to Central and South America.

    I'll agree that in some cases these advertisers and corporations are "missing" the boat when it comes to the digital revolution (look how poorly Hasbro handled Scrabulous as an example). I think that, in this case, the advertisers actually may have known their target markets.

  5. You know what? If I'm right about Western Union's primary clientele, why were they advertising on Countdown?

    I have a feeling Western Union bought a "cheap" block of advertising. And how TV advertising works is probably worth a whole other post by itself!

  6. if i wasn't so tired right now, i would write a long post about the topic - having watched millions of dollars in print/tv ads go out the door month and after month without a url, it drove me crazy - everytime i saw one, i would go to the brand and ask why - the response was always "we forgot" - i bitched and moaned as much as i could - even when i ran the interactive dept - sometimes the brands did things without speaking with me - so ads went out without even a link - i used to pin those ads on my wall with the words "waste of money" written on them :)

  7. This is a perfect example of the old vs new debate, it will happen for the remainder of our lives. The Internet is still new to some people, most of the country is not connected to fast speed Internet service like the coast (East/West) large cities are the exception, so when companies send a message they try to do it in the most simple way possible.

    As for the ad in Popular Mechanics is concerned, that was a split with them for the ad, mention the magazine and we give you a free ad or a longer run, that was do this for me and I will do this for you, classic.

  8. Hank,
    This is a vibe I never thought I'd get from you. You know, that geek vibe that assumes that everyone is as technically astute as you are. Erik above stated it pretty well with respect to Western Union. Immigrants and other "unbanked" persons I'm certain are quite impressed with the "speed" of the Money Transfer service. However, there may be another reason why WU pushes this aspect of their service.

    How many of us have tried to execute some sort of business transaction that we, being the technically astute individuals we are, know should be virtually instantaneous, only to be informed by the executing entity that there would be some sort of arbitrary period before the transaction would be finalized? A good example is a bank placing a hold on an out-of-state check, even though with today's systems it doesn't take an out-of-state check any longer to clear than a local check. So the speed of this service might not only appeal to the "unbanked," but to the banked as well.

    And it doesn't take an intense familiarity with John McCain to realize that many of the men who reside in Flomax's target market may not be comfortable with the internet. For them, I'm sure a good old-fashioned print ad offers a welcome respite from the bombardment of URL's we all are subjected to daily.

  9. One other thing to consider about Western Union is that they deal with CA$H money transactions. Get cash from point A to point B, no bank and no questions asked (really). To my knowledge, and in my experience, there isn't many ways to do this. This is not to say that I've ever had to send someone money where I wasn't concerned with the bank's interaction, just that I can imagine a scenario in which it might be best to leave them out of the loop such as when you need to bail a friend out of some Mexican jail, or you want to send a friend in Vegas some money to place a bet on a "sure thing." Like I said, not something I have experience with, but... you know... it could happen.


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