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The Worst Ad on TV? Giggling Grannies Going Skinny-Dipping

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The Worst Ad on TV? Giggling Grannies Going Skinny-Dipping

In my role as a marketing consultant, I’m often asked to evaluate a company’s marketing program. So I find it almost impossible to turn off my marketing effectiveness radar when I see ads on TV.

Sometimes an ad is so brilliantly executed I want to shout “hallelujah.” Other times, it’s so bad I want to throw a shoe at the TV, like those horrible Bill Cowher ads from Time Warner Cable.

The latest example of what I consider to be the worst ad on TV is the Walgreens ad featuring two older women who decide to visit a nude beach.

Here’s why this ad so completely misses the mark and four lessons from this cringe-worthy campaign for your smart marketing strategy.

How Walgreens Whiffed on its Nude Beach Ad

Walgreens is running a campaign about $1 copay drug pricing on Medicare Part D prescriptions. The latest ad in the series features two older women who stop by Walgreens to pick up a prescription. They’re on their way to the beach, so they need some sunblock, too. But it’s not just any beach; the joke is that they’re going to a NUDE beach.

The implausibility starts right off the bat with the fact that the women are already nude and wearing only towels and a big floppy hat when they leave their houses.

What? They’re driving around town and going shopping without any clothes on? I haven’t been to very many nude beaches (okay, none), but I’d bet you don’t typically get nude until you arrive. You certainly don’t go shopping dressed only in a towel.

In their near-nakedness, they enter Walgreens, scoop up sunblock products (why would you need more than one, by the way?), then boldly toss them on the counter with a “yeah, that’s right – we’re doing something a little naughty” attitude. The pharmacist catches on pretty fast (maybe the towels gave it away?) and gives them a sly grin.

Once they get to the beach (well-marked with a big “Nude Beach” sign, in case anyone has missed the point), they get all giggly, drop their towels, and rush into the water, all to the tune of the Beach Boys classic, “California Girls.”

So what’s wrong with this ad? While I salute the idea of older adults checking things off their bucket lists, the premise is so false – and the execution so corny – that the women in the ad end up looking foolish, not courageous, making viewers like me hit the mute button or change the channel.

The creative concept is exaggerated and overacted at every step, almost as if the marketer thinks the audience needs to be hit over the head to get the “old-ladies-going-skinny-dipping” message. The copy increases the corniness, noting that if you want to “carpe med-diem,” you should “seize the savings” – and you should “drop by” Walgreens, just at the very moment the women drop their towels. Ugh.

Worst of all, this creative concept has almost nothing to do with the Medicare Part D prescription savings program at Walgreens. Yes, the shoppers pick up a prescription (so fast you almost miss it), there’s a sign on the wall in the store, and the voiceover touts the offer.

But what do you remember most about this ad after watching it? The prescription savings program? Walgreens? Or two silly ladies at a nude beach? This is a classic example of the creative idea overpowering the message to the detriment of the marketer.

Better than the Even Dumber Walgreens Pedicure Ad – Barely

Unfortunately, many Walgreens spots fall into the same “are you kidding me?” category of advertising incredulity. The nude beach ad is only marginally better than the pedicure ad Walgreens ran last year, also promoting the Medicare Part D prescription savings program.

In the middle of a $20 pedicure special (found where, by the way? Show me a decent salon that charges $20 for a pedicure), a woman looks out the window and spots a sign promoting a $10 pedicure (even less plausible) at another salon across the street.

Mid-pedicure, with foam spacers between her toes, she jumps up and toddles out of the expensive salon, leaving a puzzled manicurist behind and walking barefoot across the street with no regard for broken glass, stones, or hot asphalt — all to save $10.

Somehow this is supposed to be related to saving money at Walgreens on Medicare Part D prescriptions, but it’s even sillier than the beach ad. And once again, what do you remember after seeing this ad? The service? The brand? Or the rude, ridiculous woman?

4 Simple Rules to Avoid Making Dumb Ads

So how can you avoid similar advertising blunders in your smart marketing strategy? Follow these four simple rules when developing your creative approach:

  1. Don’t insult the audience. Advertising targeting older adults is often painfully off-target. Respect the people you’re marketing to with messages that make them feel good about themselves without ridiculing them.
  2. Make your characters authentic. Exaggeration to make a point in advertising often backfires. The only time it works is when the exaggeration is deliberately off the charts, like the great “Football on Your Phone” ad from DirecTV, which is clearly a parody.
  3. Be sure it’s funny. Humor has many dimensions and it’s alarmingly easy to veer into roll-your-eyes territory. Some of the worst ads on TV are the ones that try and fail to be 30-second sitcoms.
  4. Develop a creative concept that supports the brand message and sells the product. The goal of an ad is not to get people to remember a creative idea – it’s to sell products and services. If the product is not integral to the creative concept, viewers won’t remember it.
5 Comments
  • Stephanie

    So sorry you felt this way with the ad. Being close to 50 myself, I thought the ad was brilliantly fun and kudos to those ladies for still having fun!

    February 21, 2016 at 10:42 am
  • Ellen

    300% agree with this article ..
    ridiculous marketing from Walgreens .. come on

    January 2, 2017 at 9:46 am
  • Jack Bear

    Well there is always some snotty little kid to make a comment and tell us all how really smart they are..I loved the add…and perhaps when you get to be of age you might get the jist of the add…

    October 15, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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