Monthly Archives: March 2014

TED’s 2013 Ads Worth Spreading


We tend to think the only purpose of advertising is to sell products. And for the most part, that is true. However, profit is not the only reason to create innovative ads; advertising can also be created to help highlight issues and address societal change.

TED’s third “Ads Worth Spreading” challenge was designed to celebrate ads that communicate ideas in an exceptionally powerful way. “Ads Worth Spreading” is TED’s initiative to recognize and reward innovation, ingenuity and intelligence in advertising — to highlight the ads that people want to see and share with their friends.

Ads were nominated by six teams of two – made up of one renowned TED speaker and one rising star from the advertising industry – and 25 TED advocates from the ad industry. The members searched worldwide for compelling ads from diverse areas of interest: Talk, Social Good, Cultural Compass, Creative Wonder, Brand Bravery and Education.

Watch the 10 winning videos and be prepared to rethink the use of advertising to help the world become a better place.

(PS – This blog has featured several of the winning ads in previous months.)

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
1. Bring up the ads: . Show one of the videos.
2. The full report can be downloaded from the site.
3. Divide students into teams and have each team select a different ad to analyze.
4. Each team should prepare a quick briefing describing the key elements that make the ad worth spreading.
5. Discuss how these elements could be applied to other products and companies.

Source:, various news outlets

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Jeff Gordon Returns! Drive to the Max for Pepsi – Part Two


A year ago Pepsi Max released a video with racing champion Jeff Gordon. In it, the company disguised NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon as “Mike,” just an average guy test-driving a new car with an unsuspecting salesman. It quickly went viral and has gained more than 47 million views (

The video was the subject of some controversy; its authenticity was questioned by many, most notably by automotive journalist Travis Okulski of The unsuspecting writer found himself on a very real drive with Jeff Gordon, disguised as an ex-con taxi driver.

The videos are a big hit for Pepsi Max and illustrate the product’s tag line of “a zero-calorie cola in disguise.” As a product in the mature stage of its product life cycle, Pepsi brings a sound strategy to making its beverages relevant to a younger market.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle. In which does Pepsi fit?
2. Discuss how products can maintain market share in the maturity stage. What tactics work best? What happens in the competitive space?
3. Pepsi’s Jeff Gordon video:
4. Divide students into groups: Have each group develop a tactic that could be used for a product in each of the product life cycle stages.
5. Follow-up in the next class with the students. Ask how many posted it on their Facebook pages or showed it to friends. Use this information to demonstrate just how videos go viral.

Source: Ad Age Daily,, Washington Post, additional news sources.

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McDonald’s New Strategies


McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest and best-known businesses. Yet, even this company has faced its share of challenges in operations and consumer relevance. Recently, the company’s executives addressed how the chain plans to tackle problems. It boils down to three primary strategies: improving marketing, focusing on core products, and stepping up digital efforts.

Improving marketing: Reorganizing from a product-based marketing approach to one organized by consumer group (e.g., families, adults, millennials).
Core products: The company had operational problems when it launched four new products in the U.S. too quickly (McWraps, blueberry-pomegranate smoothies, Egg White Delight McMuffins, and new line of Quarter Pounders). The focus will be more on core products like burgers and breakfast.
Digital efforts: Testing digital payments and digital ordering around the world.

The key is to focus on a specific strategy, and manage products and tactics to fit that strategy.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
1. Before discussion McDonald’s in class, discuss the four primary marketing strategies: market penetration, market development, product development, and diversification.
2. Ask students which strategy should McDonald’s use, and why?
3. Can it use multiple strategies? How and why?
4. Divide students into teams. Have each team select one of the four different strategies and explain why that strategy could be used to market McDonald’s.
5. Have each team determine the marketing mix (4Ps) to support their strategy choice.
6. Debrief the exercise and share McDonald’s strategy.

Source: Ad Age Daily, USA Today, other news sources

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