TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.


Marianne Paskowski

New Frugality Finally Reflected in TV Ads

October 15, 2008 10:47 AM

Finally, a breath of fresh air is swooshing across TV channels. TV ads are starting to address the country’s economic strains in their messages. What a relief from brokerage firms' ads touting their supposed prowess.

KFC $10 Challenge TV Spot

I first saw this happening with WalMart’s new ads. Soon the reality of the nation’s fiscal woes spread to other marketers.

I just love Marshall’s new ad poking fun at how designer jackets find their way to this discount chain, depicting an urban, snooty boutique owner who turned down a shipment of jackets because he didn’t have room for them. Marshall’s selling proposition upon receiving the inventory is, “we don’t have space issues.” Clever, I say.

Then there’s the $10 challenge from KFC, asking viewers to try to recreate a meal of a bucket of chicken and all the side dishes at home for the same price by buying the ingredients at a supermarket.

Meanwhile, Walgreens is touting its health care buses touring the nation offering basic free health care screening tests. Seniors on fixed income sure can relate to that offer.

Even Target, a retailer that has always marketed itself as upscale, is going more mainstream, or I guess you can say downstream, with its new tagline, “get more for less.”

I think viewers relate to marketers being sensitive to these hard times.

Do you?


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Comments (27)

David Cohen:

I agree, but I still have no desire to eat KFC!

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi David,
You might not have a choice, The Dow tumbled another 758 points today.

Meanwhile, the best I can say is glad there's a prez debate tonight, timing is exquisite. McCain & Obama better come up with something in terms of a real economic plan tonight.

Good to hear from you, m

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

Good column capturing the essence if what good marketing is all about: position yourself as a solution to the target audience's woes. Keep watching, and keep us posted, especially because some advertisers will, undoubtedly, goof up and make incredible claims that won't win them customers.

Also, people don't like being reminded that they must cut back, so advertisers cannot rub viewers noses in that fact. The winners will be the marketers ennobling the "smart and frugal" shoppers who have chosen them. Wal-Mart is a perfect example of doing that right.

Thanks for putting us in touch with a powerful new trend.



Yo, Blondie --

I can see it all unfolding now. Advertisers falling all over each other rushing to claim that their prices are the lowest. Of course, to make that claim credible, they have to imply that their quality is still okay although not up pre-recession standards.

In time, competitors will try to outdo each other claiming their quality has gone to hell, as proof of the validity of their lower prices.

Imagine the headlines: "Crud you can count on." etc.

Cruisin not brusin

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your post. Forgot to say I saw all of those spots,not WalMart, had seen that elsewhere, on Lifetime on Sunday. I got hooked into watching two movies back to back on the chick channel.

Lifetime's audience is primarily female, and they are watching their budgets and make most family's buying decisions.

Good media buy on the part of those advertisers.

Keep coming back, m

Marianne Paskowski:


You raise an interesting point. Today, for the first time on CNBC, I heard a new word, "de-pantrying," like eat up what you have.

Another interesting trend on CNBC, people are trading down on even the basics, like mustard, and going to dollar stores.

And so what? Maybe we pay too much for labels like Grey Poupon mustard, and is the alternative product at a dollar store gonna kill you, unless it comes from China?

Beats me, thanks for your post, m


Yo, Blondie --

You're on the money. We'll see a lot of "de-" this and that as Americans, and with them most of the OECD world, tighten belts after the binge that inflated more than a housing bubble. We've been living beyond our means for years, and now the chickens (or is it chicken tenders?) are coming home to roost.

That is, if the Bushie plutocrats don't remain in control. So far they keep gulling the rubes with "bailout" plans that enrich them in the long run and make taxpayers even poorer. If they get their way (likely if McCain is elected, unlikely if Obama wins) the rich will be getting richer still and the average citizen buying the $10 buckets at KFC will have to switch to scrawny drumsticks handed out in food relief lines.

Still cruisin, still bruisin

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

Give credit to the women watching their budgets. You'll see the same on men's channels: downsized cars will be cooler and buying drugs to keep from going to the john will seem less important. Remember that in the traditional, 1950's-oriented catechism still governing advertising (fussy CEOs, not ad people, dictate what a company says on TV, right or wrong), men make the money, women spend it to maintain the family and keep the house clean. Women want nutritious food for the family and a Swifter duster. Men want hair restorative, nice cars, and freedom from prostate enlargement.


Marianne Paskowski:


We are witnessing the end of Reagonomics. It's a wakeup call.

But some people won't get it, like those people wanting and getting McMansions, ignoring the terms they were signing or are renegotiating.

They are just as guilty as the government, and I'm not happy about bailing out those people as well as the government.

Conspicuous consumption is over, m

Marianne Paskowski:

What cave did you just emerge from? Most women work, many men chose to become Mr. Moms because their wives out earned them. I'm OK with that.

You are so out of touch, m

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD:

Dear Ms. Paskowski:

The changing poll numbers, the stock market crash, LIBOR, and the prices of commodities such as oil, plus other indices, are providing a rich statistical stew for our most creative analysts at The Institute. They have developed a number of insights and forecasts which we will soon announce to the world. But your blog, being the most perspicacious of available media outlets at this time, provides a forum for our discussion. We thank you for your understanding about our newly developed "Bernanke or Bust Econometric Model."

Among the political aspects of our findings:

* Barack Obama will accidentally diss the Boston Red Sox' improbable come-from-behind aspirations in the ACLS, confusing Kevin Youklis with a former Chicago Board of Education member with whom Obama disagreed in 2002. All six New England states will flip to the Republican column in the Electoral College.

* John McCain will forget decorum and in a speech disparage Army soldiers as "doggies," Air Force officers as "airdales," and even the Navy's Marines as "jarheads." He will promptly lose the endorsement of the American Legion, which will promote Sarah Palin for President, the "kill him" cries at GOP rallies now taking a new meaning.

* Michelle Obama and Laura Bush will become fast friends, promoting a new pro-women election movement with the battle cry of "dump the dufus." They will let their female audience members decide for themselves who the dufus is.

* Cindy McCain will have to fight the rumors and misperception that she, not "Flyboy John," was the gold digger.

Doc Willy

Marianne Paskowski:

Doc Willy,

Think you better stick to intercept polls--you know, polling shoppers after they shopped-- from WalMart shoppers and get their collective pulse.

You forgot some stuff in your algorithms.

LIBOR is gently swinging downward. But watch the VIX, the fear, volatility index. Oy, Asian markets are down, might trigger electronic stops in that exchange tomorrow.

Can't wait to catch the debate tonight, m.


Hey M,
Just wanted to add a personal reflection into this. I recently completed a project for an advertising class. One week we recorded everything we bought. The next week we bought nothing. It really brought to my attention how much we enjoy buying as a nation. This love affair with buying has gotten us into big trouble. We can afford a 150,000 dollar home but we buy a million dollar home. We'd like to replace the old car in the driveway, but instead of buying something economical, we buy the gas guzzler that costs $30,000. I realize that some of this buying on credit helps keep things going economically, but unless one has a plan for paying things back (something apparently nobody had, citizens and banks included), then all hell can break loose. All hell has officially broken loose. McCain doesn't know what to do. Obama wants to throw more money and government on the problem, which apparently hasn't worked up til now either. I agree more regulation is needed on some of these companies, but its the people who have to figure out a responsible way to spend. Kudos to the companies pushing people to get more for less in these tough times.

Marianne Paskowski:

Interesting lesson from that class. Of course, there's the other sign of the coin. It took Japan two decades to crawl out of its recession, probably still in one, because it's a nation of savers and not spenders.

Guess there's a middle ground here somewhere.

Thanks for your post, m

Andy S.:

I agree with your analysis, Marianne. Every time I see the ad with that talking baby buying stock (and then spitting up, which is appropriate), or the guy bragging about how he just traded on the Hong Kong exchange from his own computer, I think about how misdirected some marketing efforts still are.

Marianne Paskowski:

Here are more example's Ken Hebener's CGM focus fund advertising heavily when its investors were looking at a 20 percent drop.

Then there was Morgan Stanley, briefly turning on the ad spigot while it was awaiting an infusion of capital from the Japanese. When MS got it, the ads stopped.

Sounds like you and I spend way too much time watching CNBC:)

But you named the best, the baby buying stock and upchucking. Can't remember the company behind that work of genius.

Thanks for chiming in, m




In this day of HD, non-linear editing, up-linking, and down loading...the smart advertisers should be releasing new spots every day.

Some of the biggest, most pompous, ego driven idiots are at the AD agencies...their days are numbered...thank God.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

They probably can't, given all the slashed ad budgets.


If these advertisers would eliminate most of the over priced AD agencies and take things back into their own hands and houses...they could be releasing all the time... for seven cents on the dollar of what they've been spending prior to the on air/on line time buy.

So many think AD design & development is a God-Given Gift and Science...it is not...2 cents of fore thought, 5 cents of execution and a dollar of AD time ='s exposure, motivation and sales.

It is NOT Brain Surgery, even if the self important "Creative Directors" want us to think so...

This is a back-to-basics time in our history...cut all the fat, let's get down to relevance and reality.

I've had too much success to think otherwise...what is said on the street today can be on the network tonight as a whole new campaign, or a one night stand creating buying traffic tomorrow morning.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Peter,

You raise some interesting points. Years ago when I wrote for the now defunct Marketing & Media decisions there was this ongoing debate about inhouse vs. outhouse (no s**t) media buying services.

The in-house guys said they saved a ton of money by not having the middleman and claimed they did just as well with CPM's in negotiations.

Does anyone go inhouse anymore? Having hear a peep about that old debate in ages.

And with ad rates on Internet advertising falling, I think you make a valid point. But it's always the same old thing up there, too, m

Like any other decision for change...it takes vision and GUTS.

The rampant insecurity in the AD biz keeps the Shrinks in millions...and stymies GROWTH...

When Edgar Lotspeich was VP over all advertising for Proctor & Gamble in the 70's, there was solid thinking and long range planning into what they did.

(For those who don't know, P&G is the biggest TV AD buyer for decades...)

Thirty plus years later the world has changed in many ways...but, as Edgar told me more than once, a good idea is free...the trick is to not lose the idea in the process of implementation...and further, not to blow the mortgage on the factory to sell a product.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Peter,
I didn't know Edgar, but sounds like he had a good head on his shoulders.

Sounds like P&G new bought into Reagan-omics....m


M. Good conversation starter. I have been watching the Sox playoff games on tbs religiously.
I may be a Lummox, but I do not get the point of the Brooke Shields VW spots. Do they make sense to you? What am I missing? VW Received great exposure, and Brooke Shields is certainly memorable, but what is she talking about?


Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Pete,
Forgive my ignorance, but I don't watch the Red Sox, and know zip ablout Brooke Shield's ads. I am a Yankees fan, forever, better or worse,

Thanks for your post, and again, I just wasn't tuned in to the Red Sox nation, of which I am not part.


Andy S.:

"VW Received great exposure, and Brooke Shields is certainly memorable"

And that IS the point. If you watch enough TV, you know that advertising doesn't have to make sense, and indeed much of it nowadays seems designed specifically NOT to make sense. But if it makes you remember both the ad and the product, then it's done its job.

Like I could forget Ms. Shields brightening up my plasma.

He (Andy) is absolutely right. It is a very random world out there when it comes to what will trigger memory and product.

When it sticks...50 years ago Dinah Shore signed off each week on NBC...."See the USA..." and anybody alive then knew, (and still does), ..."in your Chevrolet, America's the greatest land of all", then she threw the biggest, full arm (mawah) kiss on TV ever.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:


The problem is most people don't remember what product an ad is touting. Like that stupid one, "Hi I'm Bill Curtis (former CBS Chicago anchor) and I've just discovered the Internet."

After hearing it a zillion times in the background, I just realized today that it was for some AT&T service, but I couldn't tell you exactly what.

Yes, it's memorable, but annoying and not accomplishing any goal.

So, my two cents for tonight. Thanks for keeping the thread going wherever it might lead, m

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