This Is a Parody Ad—Right?



(Sorry, the ZenDough police appear to have taken this “non-authorized” video down. And it doesn’t provide code to imbed its content. But you can still find the brand’s entire collection of ads here.)

Way back in 1989—when I could still be mistaken for a young man—I took the long drive up to Ithaca, NY, to interview for a spot in the MBA program at Cornell University’s Johnson School.

Things were going pretty well, I thought, until an older, tweedy professor of marketing asked me to name my favorite advertising campaign.

Infiniti, I yelped without hesitation, citing the zen-like “rocks and trees” campaign that launched the then nascent brand without ever showing what the luxury car looked like.

Hmmm, he said with a raised eyebrow and disapproving tone, making a note on a yellow legal pad, like a psychiatrist about to prescribe an anti-depressant to an unstable patient.

Well, I didn’t get accepted at Cornell. (The story is a bit more complicated, but we’ll leave it there.) And here I am 20 years later passing the same harsh judgment on this bonsai-and-lotus-flower ad for TransUnion’s ZenDough.com.

Did I just grow older? Or did the concept? Is it a poor fit for financial services? Or is it just the ZenDough name that’s making me wince? Perhaps it’s all of the above, just like a multiple-choice answer on the GMAT. Sorry, TransUnion but I’d have to give you a FAIL for this effort.