Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Praise Of The Bleedin' Obvious

Strategy-lite ad for erectile dysfunction

Is it okay for an ad to be strategically uninteresting?

A phrase from Martin Weigel's Canalside View blog has stuck in my head -

"Advertising claims," he writes, "probably simply work as an interesting statement of category membership."

What he means is that what most ads say about the product is bleedin' obvious, and it's just the way we say it that makes the difference. 

The example he gives is the Sony 'Balls' ad. Sony spent millions of dollars asserting an unbelievably basic claim - that their colour TV offers great colour. But the way they said it, made you want it.

Anyway, I decided to test Martin's viewpoint. Being a creative rather than a scientist, I've conducted the experiment in a way that lacks any semblance of rigour. I simply went to the section on Ads Of The World that showcases the 2012 Cannes Lion winners, and looked at the first 20 ads that came up, categorising them as either 'Strategically Obvious' or 'Strategically Interesting'.

Strategically Obvious 

Sindebax Erectline Dysfunction Pill - 'Stops you going down' (pictured above)
JVC cameras - 'You can use the delete function to pick the best image later'
Doritos Dips - 'You can dip them in salsa'
Liquid Paper' - 'Use it to blank out text you don't want to see'
Virgin Australia - 'We fly from Australia to the USA'
Mini - 'Mini cars can drive on any road'

Strategically Interesting

FedEx 'You'll be so impressed, you'll try to poach our staff'
DirecTV 'Cable is so poor it can set off a huge chain of negative consequences'
Hahn Super Dry beer 'Tastes awesome because it's brewed with awesomeness'
McDonald's children's parties 'Let us take care of the monsters'
Amnesty International 'We should never see violence during delivery, so let's get this YouTube video down to zero views'
Mercedes Night View Assist 'Spots the danger before you do'
Kit Kat 'Take a break from your meeting'
Coke 'Give someone a coke'
Down's Syndrome Day 'People with Down's syndrome can be integrated into society, just as they have been integrated into these well-known ads'
Lou Gehrig's Disease Foundation 'Testimonials from beyond the grave'
eMart 'QR codes created by shadows, to boost sales at lunchtime'
American Express 'Small business gets an official day'
Austria Solar 'The first annual report that's only legible when sunlight falls on its pages'
Breeze Washing Liquid 'You need Breeze because stains have evolved'

Now, I know that some of these ads are scams, which may or may not invalidate them. And I know sometimes it's the technology that's interesting, not the strategy (like the Mini piece, which uses Google Streetview to let you drive a Mini down any road in the world). And you may disagree with one or two of my classifications.

But nevertheless, I think there's an interesting conclusion to draw. 

While by no means all the work conformed to Martin's mere 'assertion of category membership' dictum, 30% of the executions (6 out of 20) did. 

Therefore I reckon that - as creatives - it is worth spending at least some of our time on each brief making no attempt to be strategically intelligent.

Don't think too much about what you're doing, just see if you can hit the ball out of the park.

1 comment:

Tom Morton said...

On a related note, one of the hallmarks of a scam ad is obvious strategy: shoe polish makes your shoes shiny, chili sauce is hot, catching AIDS is bad.