Monday, July 20, 2009

If you hate infomercials, you'll hate FedEx's new YouTube videos, too.

When FedEx declined to advertise on the Super Bowl, for the first time in 18 years, a ripple ran through the advertising world. Not advertise on TV's biggest show of the year? What's up with that?

Fact is, FedEx has lost ground (so to speak) to alternate means of sending documents online. FedEx lost more than $800 million in the second quarter of this year. And the high cost of gas hasn't helped the company's bottom line, either. So they decided spending more millions on Super Bowl spots didn't make sense. But maybe going YouTube did.

According to an article in the NY Times, the cubicle lunch crowd has turned out to be a sizable YouTube audience, rivaling the home TV audience. To reach them, FedEx created 3-minute spoof infomercials touting FedEx's benefits. The videos, starring the wonderful Fred Willard as pitch person, debuted on YouTube today. BBDO Worldwide, New York is the agency.

Fred tries to play it straight, and for the most part, he succeeds. I'll hand it to the creators of the videos for neo-realism: a couple of female co-stars, who are WAY over the top, make me want to hack up a hairball, just like the raving idiots on real infomercials.

In terms of effectiveness, I have three concerns about these videos:

• I wonder how many infomercials the cubicle lunch bunch watches. They're at work during the day, then after work, they watch their favorite series or movies. If you've never seen what is being satirized, does the the satire lose its bite?

• The gag is obvious after seeing one of the videos. So will you bother to watch the others?

• The videos are fast-paced, and FedEx's many features and benefits are sort of stuffed into nooks and crannies between sight gags and other distractions, so I wonder if the audience will get the sales message. But if the point is simple awareness, then perhaps the videos score well.

These 3-minute FedEx playlets have their funny moments, but I hate real infomercials so much, I could only stand to watch two. Take a 3-minute break and see what you think.

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