Archives For March 2013

The Rascals song “A Beautiful Morning” is great. Slapstick comedy is great. Fishing in Northern Wisconsin is great. The actor Robert Hays is great, despite his last great comedy happening 33 years ago. The Wisconsin director David Zucker of legendary Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker fame, he’s great. (He’s why I’m in advertising. Long story.) And by golly, the great state of Wisconsin is ridiculously, incredibly great.

What’s not great is when you put them all together. Then you get the new ad that Zucker directed for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. I don’t think it makes a vacation in Wisconsin look so great. I certainly hope I’m wrong.

You can see how this came to be. Zucker directed ads for Travel Wisconsin before. He’s our state’s biggest Hollywood name. I don’t get casting Robert Hays. Perhaps his Q rating is high, three decades after his last hit, “Airplane!” Certainly, this all gets good press.

But if you buy David Zucker, you’re buying slapstick. Strategically, that’s the problem. Zucker just did his job – directed slapstick. And he did great. The fish slapping at the end is really funny. But slapstick is Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, and Jim Carrey. Right now, Wisconsin doesn’t need to be the Three Stooges of vacation spots.

The voice-over says, “It doesn’t take any special skills to enjoy Wisconsin.” Great. Hey you Minnesota dipsticks! We welcome you! It’ll be fun! We’ll smash some stuff! Come on over!

And the last line on screen is, “Fun. Courtesy of TravelWisconsin.com.” Indeed, that’s what people want in a vacation. But what Robert Hays went through isn’t really fun. It’s funny watching zany, madcap stuff happen to a guy who was famous three decades ago, but it’s not exactly fun.

Again, I really hope I’m wrong. I hope flocks of people laugh at that ad, go to the website to book and enjoy a wonderful Wisconsin vacation. But next time, I just hope the ad can be as great as the vacation destination it represents.

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So there’s this small tavern in the small town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin a few miles from my home. It’s called Paddy Caughlin’s Irish Pub. It’s wonderful.

Alas, I didn’t celebrate my Irish brethren there this year. (This photo was taken last summer.) But the photo shows an incredible idea for how you can put your customers first – let other customers buy them something. In this case, it’s a beer.

This simple “pay it forward” chart shows who bought a beer for a pal, and who has a free beer coming their way. This idea plays into the neighborhood hangout brand that they’re trying to carve out. It encourages word of mouth. And it means instant revenue for the bar; with 15 to 20 percent of gift cards going completely unused, it’s likely that this is a pretty profitable tactic.

Free beer? Great idea, Paddy.