Metamucil Campaign Touches Women’s-Weight Nerve

Barbara Lippert has it right concerning the Metamucil “Drop-dead gorgeous guts” print ad [“A Gut Feeling,” March 26]. I don’t believe she is overreacting, and I don’t think the millions of women who suffer from anorexia nervosa or their families would think [she] is overreacting in her Critique of the Metamucil attempt to reach a new younger demographic for a product that has been traditionally targeted for those over 50.

Anorexia nervosa is the most deadly of any mental illness. People die in their efforts to be “drop-dead gorgeous.” Late last year the fashion industry lost internationally known fashion icons to anorexia nervosa. There has been much media coverage over the issue of too-thin models. Yet, despite the headlines about models who died from anorexia, Metamucil … comes out with an ad whose headline is “Drop-dead gorgeous guts.”

If I could make a suggestion to the advertising and marketing people at P&G, I would thank them if they rethink this ad approach. It may be there are many others besides Barbara and me who think P&G has gone too far.

Keith Sanderson

Director, Media Relations and Communication, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Highland Park, Ill.

Dance for Gap Poses Age-Old Question: Retail Before Creative?

Pardon the pun, but Barbara Lippert’s Critique of the latest Gap commercial [“Dancing With the Stars,” March 19] sums up that brand’s most basic problem: Despite how well the spot itself was cast and executed, the product featured has far too limited an appeal.

Think back to Gap in its heyday: When the “Gap Khaki Swing” spot ran, it literally ended with the words “everyone in khakis.” To the credit of that execution, the brand was doing what the brand always did best—merchandise and market to everyone.

With something like 2,000 stores across the nation, Gap—by virtue of its sheer size and ubiquity—must merchandise and market to the masses. Notice I say “merchandise and market.”

While working on Old Navy several years ago as the interim creative director, we did an informal “audit” of the last few seasons’ campaigns and came upon an interesting realization: The reason that division of Gap Inc. was experiencing month after month of same-store sales declines was that it had chosen a spokesmodel with limited appeal (bad marketing), who was in turn extolling the virtues of denim mini-skirts (bad merchandising). With apologies to Molly Simms, these weren’t merely subjective issues, they were objective issues.

The market reality then was, and still is now, that Old Navy—like Gap—must consistently drive a tremendous amount of store traffic and convert that traffic into a substantial number of transactions-per-customer in order to be successful. Unfortunately, by marketing merchandise that only appealed to a very small percentage of the population, the advertising was alienating the vast majority of their consumer base. Men, young men, boys, girls and many women who couldn’t ever see themselves wearing denim mini-skirts crossed Old Navy off their list of shopping destinations.

Similarly, the case could be made that the current Gap ad will have a similar negative impact. By marketing a pair of pants as “boyfriend trousers,” Gap is in essence communicating directly to every man and indirectly to any women who doesn’t have a meaningful, nostalgic or positive association with the word “boyfriend” that they aren’t featuring any merchandise for them.

It’s probably safe to assert that last fall’s “skinny black pant” effort was also something of a miscalculation. While I subjectively found the juxtaposition of Audrey Hepburn and AC/DC distinctly unnerving, the larger issue was that, objectively, the merchandise itself could only appeal to a very, very narrow (figuratively and literally) segment of the population. So even if you adored the commercial and rated it a 10, you couldn’t imagine wearing the product, unless you were a size 2.

Ernest Lupinacci

ECD, Ernest Industries

New York

Why Selling in Advertising Might Be the Oldest, Best Idea There Is

Admittedly, I’m a little behind in my reading, only just getting to your article [“Birth of a Salesman,” Tim Arnold, Feb. 26], but I wish it could be displayed on tablets … in every ad agency in the world. My only concern is your paragraph about moving the needle. True, many people don’t check any needle at all. But I’ve also seen some deliberately pick a needle that has no relevance. Unfortunately, in the business-to-business field, there often isn’t even an attempt to find a needle. We are overwhelmed by haystacks. Ads are sometimes judged on the basis of whether or not the sister-in-law of the CEO (who does decoupage of last year’s Christmas cards) felt it was well-designed. (Sometimes you feel that way anyway.) In any event, I’m making an enlarged photocopy and hanging it on my wall. Wish everybody would.

Tim Orr

Principal, Barnett Orr Marketing Group Nashville Tenn.