TIME Advertising

How Axe Made the Ad Everybody Is Talking About

How Axe Made the Ad Everybody Is Talking About
Axe

Fragrance company Axe has built a grooming products empire by buddying up with bros. Their ads are well known for their sexual humor and exaggerated scenarios that play into male fantasies.

Perhaps that’s why Axe’s latest ad has come as such a surprise. Instead of focusing on broad humor, the company’s Super Bowl spot to promote the new Axe Peace fragrance line is a sprawling epic that seemingly spans to span continents and generations. “If it’s surprising, it’s designed to be surprising,” says Matthew McCarthy, Axe’s senior marketing director. “That’s one of the ways that we’ve found over the years is the best way to present an idea.”

The concept for the ad and its surrounding marketing campaign was developed in conjunction with the Peace fragrance over more than a year, McCarthy says. Axe often visits college campuses and talks to students to discover what topics and themes will captivate their Millennial customers. Right now, McCarthy says, those topics are peace and harmony.

“The idea of making the world a more peaceful place is a pretty universal idea. Young people are saying, ‘Hey, this world’s pretty soon going to be my world and I’m going to be even more responsible for it.’”

The commercial, which was developed by British advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, begins with a montage of classic wartime images. A tank rolls through a devastated European city, an Asian dictator is flanked by Maoist propaganda posters and a Middle Eastern ruler wields a nuclear device. Midway through, though, the narrative is turned on its head as each invader is revealed to actually be making a loving gesture toward a woman. If the typical Axe ad operates on the assumption that sex sells, this one attempts to prove that romance does.

(MORE: The 13 Most Controversial Super Bowl Ads Ever)

Though the Asian leader looks like North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and the Middle Eastern man looks like former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, McCarthy says the characters aren’t referencing specific people. “It was more about creating iconic vignettes that people can connect with,” he says. “Dramatizing moments of conflict and bringing it to life in a way that really resonated with people is really what drove the development of the campaign.”

The ad, which was shot in Bangkok, Thailand over 5 days, has struck a chord with viewers. It’s accrued almost 3.5 million views on YouTube and will likely get a new round of attention after the Super Bowl. The promotional campaign also includes a #KissForPeace Twitter hashtag, through which users can submit photos of themselves kissing to Axe.The best photos are being broadcast on electronic billboards in Times Square through Feb. 9.

McCarthy wouldn’t disclose the cost of the campaign, but said that it would likely be the biggest marketing campaign ever for the company. The company spent $62.7 million on ads in the first three quarters of 2013, according to The New York Times.

So is Axe turning to a more serious tone for good? McCarthy says the company simply has to pick the right message for the right moment. But for now he thinks they’ve hit a note that resonates with their Millennial demographic. “Being relevant is more important than anything else,” he says. “If you’re not relevant, you’re nothing to young people.”

TIME Sports Business

NFL Launches New Online Sports Network

Rich Johnson of Spectacle Photo / Getty Images

Latest league to start online service

The NFL became the latest league to launch an online sports network Wednesday, debuting its new digital channel NFL Now in New York.

The new, free network will mix game highlights, live streams of press conferences, originally produced content from the league and its 32 teams, behind-the-scenes locker room footage and content already being produced for the NFL cable network and NFL.com. Users will be able to tailor the stream of content to their interests, following their favorite teams and players. Voting content up or down will change the upcoming programming on the fly, similar to the way Pandora personalizes radio. The league claims that no two fans will have the exact same NFL Now channel.

“The NFL has always focused on reaching as many fans as possible, wherever they are and with the best possible content,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We believe it’s critical to innovate and provide fans new opportunities to engage with the NFL.”

The league is planning to put a lot of marketing muscle behind the new service, which launches this summer. NFL Now will be available for free on mobile phones through Apple’s iOS, Android and Windows beginning this summer, as well as on the NFL.com website. Partnerships with Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon will also make the service available through Xbox One, Xbox 360, Yahoo’s sports section and Verizon’s NFL Mobile product. A series of Super Bowl commercials will introduce the service to a broad audience on Sunday.

The new network is the latest step by the league to assert control over its own content instead of merely licensing it to sports broadcasters like ESPN. The NFL Network, launched in 2003, is now available to most major cable subscribers and exclusively broadcasts a lineup of Thursday night NFL games. The league also runs NFL.com, which has its own production staff that creates articles, game highlight reels and live analysis segments. These properties allow the NFL to sell ads against its own content and forge lucrative sponsorships with companies.

It’s possible that NFL Now could evolve into a more direct competitor to sports networks if it live streams football games in the future. “We’re looking at all types of distribution,” said Vishal Shah, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development. “Live games are certainly an option for us. It’s really figuring out the right distribution strategy on our end.” Shah says a subscription-based model could be an option later on.

Streaming rights to live sports are already negotiated separately from broadcast rights, which has caused a separate set of bidding wars from the ones that the television networks often engage in for sports content. Verizon, for instance, is reportedly paying $1 billion for the right to broadcast NFL games on smartphones for the next four seasons, a 40 percent increase in the price they paid in a previous contract. Building a thriving online network where games could be streamed could either allow the NFL to forego distribution middlemen or negotiate even higher rates with companies hungry for football.

The league has no immediate plans to leave broadcasters behind, though. “We want to make sure we support our rights holders and partners,” Shah said. “They’ve been very strong partners of the NFL for years.” Right now, those partners are fighting over a potential 1-year deal to air the Thursday night games currently being aired on the NFL Network. With its own media networks generating ad revenue as it still pulls in huge paydays from TV networks, it seems like the NFL’s pockets will only get fatter from here.

TIME Personal Finance

Nearly Half of America Lives Paycheck-to-Paycheck

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The economic picture is looking brighter these days. The federal government announced Thursday that economic growth had picked up to its fastest pace in two years, while employment growth over the past five months has averaged a healthy 185,000 new jobs. But as evidenced by a report out Thursday from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “persistent economic security,” that makes it “difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future.”

In other words, too many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The CFED calls these folks “liquid asset poor,” and its report finds that 44% of Americans are living with less than $5,887 in savings for a family of four. The plight of these folks is compounded by the fact that the recession ravaged many Americans’ credit scores to the point that now 56% percent of us have subprime credit. That means that if emergencies arise, many Americans are forced to resort to high-interest debt from credit cards or payday loans.

And this financial insecurity isn’t just affected the lower classes. According to the CFED, one-quarter of middle-class households also fall into the category of “liquid asset poor.” Geographically, most of the economically insecure are clustered in the South and West, with Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, and Arkansas being the states with the highest percentage of financially insecure.

TIME Advertising

Barneys Is Counting on 17 Transgender Models for Its Spring Campaign

Bruce Weber / Barneys

In a departure from its traditional spring marketing, luxury retailer Barneys is launching a campaign to raise awareness about transgender issues. (more…)

TIME facebook

Now Facebook Wants to Conquer the News Game

Facebook

On Thursday, Facebook announced a new mobile app that offers a radically different approach to interacting with the social network. Paper, which will be available on iOS on Feb. 3, mixes News Feed posts and photos from friends with news content from media publishers in an attempt to craft a more relaxed and organized user experience.

Through Paper, status updates, photos and news posts are placed on individual, full-screen cards that users swipe left or right to scan through. Like a newspaper, the app contains themed sections for topics like sports and food, which users can incorporate into their feed. These sections will feature not only content shared among a user’s Facebook friends but also content that Facebook notices is trending or that the company’s human editors decide is worth sharing. The act of making a post has also been overhauled, with Paper offering a visual editor that allows users to preview what their post will look like.

The app has a heavy focus on presenting news from what Facebook calls “the world’s best sources.” Publishers such as TIME, USA Today, The New York Times and CNN are featured in a promotional video for the app, and their content will be used to help populate the app’s sections. Facebook has recently been focusing on increasing the quality of the posts on its network by tweaking its News Feed algorithm to surface articles from news organizations rather than meme photos.

(MORE: Facebook Stock Soars After Strong Earnings Report)

By providing an app that is tailored to promoting news publishers’ work, Facebook likely hopes to entice them to post more of their content on the social network. The company is currently in a battle with Twitter to become the definitive destination for discovering news.

The stripped-down, visually-focused approach is also a nod to more modern publishing platforms like Instagram and Medium, which are considerably more streamlined than Facebook’s chaotic combination of written posts, photos and games. The app is ad free right now, according to The Verge, but it’s easy to imagine that it could one day be a useful platform to lure in brand advertisers who want to market through pretty pictures instead of typical News Feed posts.

Paper is part of Facebook’s larger strategy to diversify its product line across a variety of apps rather than cramming more functions into its main website. The company acquired Instagram in 2012 to stake a claim in the photo-publishing space and has a popular messaging app called Facebook Messenger. It also created a Snapchat clone called Poke in 2012, which failed to grab user interest.

TIME Advertising

Chevy’s Sexy Cow Ad May Gross You Out

An interesting choice for its return to Super Bowl advertising

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Chevrolet’s Super Bowl ad might be called “Romance,” but after you watch the spot you’ll realize it’s about something else: bovine heat. The ad begins when a rugged cowboy loads what we learn is a very lonely bull into the back of his Chevy pickup, not unusual imagery for a pickup ad. Then “Sexy Thing” starts playing and things get a little strange. As the over voice over talks about the “eligible bachelor” (the bull, not the cowboy), describing his “bated breath” and “lonely heart,” it becomes clear that the bull is on his way to a farm to mate. The spot ends with a closeup of the bull licking his lips at the sight of cows as far as the eye can see, without another bull in sight.

MORE: The 19 Greatest Super Bowl Ads of All Time

Leo Burnett Detroit made the 60-second spot, that will mark Chevy’s return tot he Super Bowl ad space. Last year, former GM global marketing chief Joel Ewanick loudly pulled Super Bowl (and Facebook) advertising, saying it was a waste of money.

TIME Food and Beverage Industry

Mayo Squeezes Out Mustard

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The verdict is in: mayonnaise reigns supreme

Mayonnaise-lovers know well the look of disgust a squirt of their favorite condiment will elicit on the face of a mayo-hater: the glance, the shudder, and the “…eww…..” followed by an impassioned oratory extolling the virtues of mustard. But take heart, mayonnaise enthusiasts. You are legion.

A new report from the market research firm Euromonitor makes it plain that, in the United States condiment market, Mayonnaise bests the competition handily, Quartz reports. Consumers in the U.S. spend $2 billion a year on mayonnaise. Mustard, meanwhile, raked in less than $450 million in 2013, and that number has been in decline since 2009, according to the study. The hot sauce market, which has been growing mightily in the U.S. in recent years, is still paltry compared to mayo.

The closest any condiment comes to competing with mayonnaise is that most stereotypically American of condiments: ketchup, the market for which was valued at $725 million last year.

[Quartz]

TIME facebook

Facebook Stock Soars After Strong Earnings Report

Facebook made $1.5 billion in 2013, compared to $53 million a year earlier.

Facebook shares soared Thursday morning after the social network reported strong earnings that outstripped expectations the day before.

The stock rose roughly eight points, or 15 percent, by 9:45 a.m., following a smaller surge in after-hours trading late Wednesday.

The company announced Wednesday that it pulled in $523 million in profits in the fourth quarter of 2013, about an eight-fold increase over the same quarter last year, as ads on the site became increasingly valuable. Profits on the year reached $1.5 billion, up from just $53 million in 2012.

TIME Economy

Economy Growing at Fastest Pace in 2 Years

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The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the government estimated Thursday.

The Department of Commerce estimate was in line with economists’ expectations, and when combined with third-quarter growth of 4.1%, it represents the best six-month stretch of economic growth in two years. Growth for all of 2013, however, was only 1.9%, a decrease from 2012 that was brought down by slow growth during the first half of the year.

Nearly all sectors of the economy contributed to the healthy growth, from consumer spending to business investment and state and local government spending. The one big drag on growth was reductions in federal government spending, which decreased by 12.6% in the fourth quarter.

TIME Google

Motorola Was a Gargantuan Mistake Only Google Could Afford to Make

A Google logo is seen at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California
Stephen Lam / Reuters

After agreeing to acquire Motorola Mobility three years ago for $12.5 billion, Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, gushed with optimism for the phone-maker’s future. No, he didn’t buy the company merely for its patents. Rather, he promised to reinvigorate Motorola by creating innovative phones to better compete against rivals Apple and Samsung. “I think this is a unique opportunity and one that I’m tremendously excited about,” Page said at the time.

But making headway in the crowded smartphone market proved to be far tougher than he anticipated. On Wednesday, Page all but admitted his mistake by agreeing to sell Motorola to Lenovo Group, the Chinese electronics colossus, for $2.9 billion. “There’s no way to see this whole adventure as anything but a failure,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst for Jackdaw Research. “It’s not just as a loss on the acquisition, but also the money Motorola lost for Google along the way.”

Google’s exit after just 22 months isn’t exactly surprising. The decision to buy a major phone-maker, with the inevitable low margins and complex manufacturing operation, never seemed convincing.

Most analysts believed Google simply wanted Motorola’s 17,000 technology patents. Owning them would help Google defend its Android operating system from infringement attacks. Google executives acknowledged patents played a role in the original Motorola deal. But they insisted that they also wanted to sell smartphones, which Google had been trying to do on its own with its Nexus line of smartphones, but with limited success.

How much money Google ended up losing on Motorola is debatable. What’s clear is that Google recouped much of the money by selling Motorola’s phone business on Wednesday and its television set-top box business last year.

In the end, the cost to Google should be around $4 billion. But Google will retain most of Motorola’s patents, which considerably softens the financial blow. The patents haven’t proved to be as iron clad as once believed, however. Google has lost or received unfavorable rulings in a number of patent cases.

In explaining the Motorola sale, Page said in a blog post that the smartphone market is “super competitive” and that “to thrive it helps to be all-in when it comes to making mobile devices.” By unloading Motorola, Google will now be able to focus its innovative energy on Android, the most popular operating system for mobile devices.

Although it is selling Motorola, Page explained that Google would continue to move ahead with other hardware including Nexus phones, Chromebook laptop computers and Glass, the company’s futuristic eyewear. Additionally, Google is expanding into Internet connected home appliances through a planned $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, a start-up that sells smart thermostats and fire alarms.

“This does not signal a larger shift for our other hardware efforts,” Page wrote. “The dynamics and maturity of the wearable and home markets, for example, are very different from that of the mobile industry.”

Google will keep Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects team, a skunk works for experimental devices.

Ross Rubin, an analyst with Reticle Research, said that Google executives initially thought they could supercharge Motorola’s business, much like they did with prior acquisitions like YouTube and Android. After an initial lull, Motorola introduced two phones designed under Google’s leadership. The Moto X, a mid-priced phone, and the Moto G, a lower cost device, generally received positive reviews. Google even splurged on television commercials and billboards to stir up interest among consumers.

But Motorola’s sales have been sluggish and have failed to stem the division’s big losses. In the quarter ending in September, revenue fell nearly one-third, despite the premiere of the flagship Moto X. The phones didn’t stand out against rivals and never managed to get enough distribution from telecom carriers. Finding a buyer for Motorola seemed like the logical thing to do, Rubin said.

Investing more money in the effort was risky and tangential to Google’s more important Android software business. “The handset business always seemed to be something that Google thought ‘this is something we’re interested in, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just sell it,’” Rubin said.

Google is, of course, not like other companies. Making big bets of risky projects is part of its culture. Usually, the failures are relatively small and disappear quietly, never to be seen again. This time, the misstep was big and unavoidably public. “Motorola fits in the mold of acquisitions that Google made with the attitude, ‘Why don’t we try this just because we can,’” Dawson, the analyst with Jackdaw said. “Google makes decisions that other companies wouldn’t.”

Ultimately, selling hardware is a business of scale with enough room for only two or so major companies in each category, he said. Samsung and Apple already dominate higher-end smartphones.

Early on, Google executives argued that owning Motorola would help in accelerating innovation with Android. Following Apple’s lead in owning both the hardware and software sounded great. But the realities of the market made it nearly impossible. Google couldn’t play favorites with Motorola for fear of alienating other handset manufacturers that also use Android.

Still, the potential conflict led to tension with manufacturers, particularly with, Samsung, Google’s biggest Android partner. On Sunday, both companies called a truce by agreeing to share their existing patents along with those issued in the next 10 years. Few details were made public. But the deal seemed to set the stage for Wednesday’s announcement that Motorola would have a new owner.

As usual, Google appeared to have emerged from it all in pretty good shape. Lenovo will continue to churn out phones that use Android, creating a new rival to Samsung’s dominance. Meanwhile, Google will no longer saddled with losses from making phones in-house.

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