Subtlety seems to be lost on Madison Avenue, where advertisers have no compunction telling customers to Just Do It, Get Out There, Be Hospitable, Live Richly or Think Different. It's called "didactic marketing," the new industry catchphrase used to describe the dictatorial trend in advertising. For many companies, the soft sell is out. Ordering customers around is in.

Curiously, didactic marketing's new devotees are companies with few if any product or service improvements to showcase. A firm's television, print and Web ads can offer a true look at determining whether it's pushing actual innovations and real competitive advantages or if it's glossing over such details with pointed lifestyle advice.

"What's going on is spinning the same product attributes in a different way. It's about taking another shot at telling the same old story," says Thomas Ordahl, a partner at marketing and branding specialist Group 1066. Ordahl thinks too many companies are resting on their laurels rather than developing new value propositions for customers.

In its current ad campaign it launched in February, Hilton Hotels has been ordering viewers to "Be Hospitable." Unlike Wyndham Worldwide, which recently began touting the improved comfort of it hotel beds in its "Heavenly Bed" program, Hilton decided to tweak the natural human instinct of greeting strangers politely during a time, it thinks, when that value has been lost on people during their rushed, technology-driven lives. Mary Beth Parks, Hilton's vice president of marketing, defends the program.

"We decided we wanted a call to action, and to do it in a subtle way to give people something to think about," Parks says. "Hopefully, they will associate it with us."

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