Marketing is often smart. It should be to work. But on Thursday, software giant SAP proved that all the expertise that money can buy doesn't have to keep you from doing something really dumb.
But the things that SAP did wrong were so basic, so obvious, and so pervasive that you'd hope someone on a professional marketing staff would have caught it.
The first page of the ad, placed in the Wall Street Journal, was purportedly an open letter from some guy named Nick Vitale, a 36-year-old from Milltown, N.J. who wanted to vent about a bunch of things bothering him. Like being told all the time by companies that they want his feedback but they never really want to hear it.
Some guy took out a full page ad in the WSJ to air a bunch of minor, unoriginal consumer grievances. And I kinda dig it pic.twitter.com/CLtUEtmbFY-- Rob Noel (@robdnoel) January 31, 2019
Good old Nick complained about air carriers who have to nickel and dime for everything rather than maybe charging an extra $10 on the ticket and providing an actual meal. Or all the extra fees that cable companies throw in. Cheeseburgers with tomato slices that are too thick and slide out of the bun. Cell phone manufacturers whose equipment suddenly begins to slow horribly around the time the new models come out.
And, at first, the page seemed to do its job. People on social media echoed Nick and praised him for being willing to spend so much money--a rate card cost of a full page in the Journal is $277,200--to let entire industries know of his grievances.
It almost seemed like a Spartacus moment:
"I am Nick Vitale."
"No, I am Nick Vitale."
"I am Nick Vitale."
One by one, consumers from all over stepped forward to bravely proclaim their solidarity on Twitter with the man who dared stand up and complain about so many first world problems that were breaking his heart, but not his spirit.
Hey, can someone cue the orchestra?
Seriously, this could have been great had it been real. But it wasn't. Just another game. Because on a second page was the message from SAP: "We hear you. Thank you for the letter. We couldn't agree more."
And so on, tying the entire rant to not being heard and saying how SAP has software to help companies hear and do something. Or not.
Unfortunately it was just some lame ad from SAP. pic.twitter.com/JCQNnQwhn2-- Cogadh (@SonOfUhGunn) January 31, 2019
Maybe SAP should have spent more time listing, or at least paying attention to some basics. As Michael Tanenbaum in the Philly Voice pointed out, "Nick" complained about too few gas stations having hand sanitizer available at the pumps. But you can't pump your own gas in Jersey. State law that you'd think people in a company with its U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square, Penn., on the outskirts of Philadelphia, next to New Jersey, might know.
Maybe it replaced a line that was more like, "And I'm so tired of the chauffeur not having hand cleaner in the seat next to my glass of Cristal."
Doesn't play to Middle America, I guess.
So, lots of people like the complaints and it's probably not going to do SAP a bit of good. Plenty of companies already run its software: businesses like airlines and telecommunications companies and retailers. The sorts that don't seem to be able to listen.
Ah, what do they know?
With the amount of money that went into this, figuring the addition of the marketing agency and all the internal brain power that burned the midnight oil over creative planning sessions, they probably could have bought a house or two for some families that weren't being heard about not having an economy that worked for them. Or bankrolled interest-free loans to government workers when they were on furlough. Or something.
Maybe that comes in version 2.0.