Nominate your Pants-on-Fire advertiser.

If it wasn’t obvious already, one of the plethora of BBC radio stations ran an on-line phone-in this week that demonstrated beyond doubt how short Auntie is of material these days.  OK, so at least they were trying and I am sure there was more than a hint of irony in the choice of subject, but to ask viewers to phone in and nominate TV commercials that they were indifferent to was taking things a bit too far.  However, completely missing the point that if you are indifferent to a commercial, by definition, you won’t remember it, people actually called in!

The truth of the matter is that while nobody could have been “indifferent” to the commercials they nominated, there were many examples that were clearly getting up folks’ noses, often because they lacked a clear message or were frankly just awful, and that’s just the kind of waste of client investment that pushes all my buttons!  The worst offenders are commercials that are clearly all about creative ego.  As an ex-creative director myself and mentor to creatives and creative departments in agencies in a number of countries, I’m the first to recognise and understand the importance of great creativity, but, as I find myself saying far too often, great creative work reinforces the commercial message.  It doesn’t disguise or, worse still, contradict it and it certainly doesn’t just clutter thirty-seconds of airtime with wasteful irrelevance.

The reason that there are so many commercials out there that break these basic rules stems from errors or omissions at the very start of the strategy development process.  It amazes me that so many of the organisations I go into still don’t have a clearly defined brand. I’m often told by organisations that they have a strategy, even a brand strategy, only to find that what they have is built on sand.  You simply can’t develop a strategy without first establishing what your brand actually is.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds and involves a level of honesty and self-acceptance that few marketing people seem able to live with, but if you don’t crack this first step, absolutely everything you do from there forward will be compromised and wasteful.

You can’t hope to accurately communicate who you are (your brand character) if you can’t recognise yourself and its essential to the success of your business that you are accurate.  The process of accurately defining brand character is what my Brand Discovery programme is all about.  It also embraces all the processes and tools that ensure you always tell it like it is.  However, there are still a lot of businesses around that are either dishonest, confused about their own identity or just plain crap at communicating it and you can see the results in their advertising every day so my challenge to you is to find the world’s most dishonest advertiser.

You know who I mean.  The advertiser whose commercials or ads leave you saying “Yes, right” with the same commitment that you had when Kraft Foods said they wouldn’t cut the staff count at Cadbury (and then announced the closure of a Cadbury factory within a week of completing the deal).

Wherever in the world you may be, nominate your Pants-on-Fire advertiser by commenting on this post, adding a link to the “evidence” and explain why the piece in question lacks credibility.

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4 responses to “Nominate your Pants-on-Fire advertiser.

  1. In the U.S. commercials seem to fall frequently into the role you speak of, that is, someone wanted to show how creative they are but it does not fit the message at all. An example is the JG Wentworth commercial wherein the actors are outfitted in Viking costumes and sing an opera which is about needing cash now, and is subtitled. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbGw3A9Dg-Q
    It is truly an absurd piece of work. If the idea behind the commercial is to have me remember the company, it works, but in an irritatingly negative way.

    I also think there are only 3 or 4 marketing/ad agencies out there, and they all either copy each other or there is just one large ad company with no imagination whatsoever. My reason: What I might call “Commercial Genres” and perhaps you will recognize them.

    Someone singing or dancing solo in a white room. Apple started this and for a while EVERYONE copied it. I mean soft drinks, vitamins, laundry soap, etc.

    Dancing spotted lizards – which mean what and how do they relate to vitamin water? And again, others went with it in various forms for other products. That’s distinction, is it?

    My family and friends like to mute the TV and see if the commercial has any relevance without any sound at all. If it doesn’t, then it is a sure sign of crap advertising.

  2. I think you’re right Bart, the worst ads are the ones for TRUCKS during football season and the lizard for Geico, what are they trying to sell? I don’t get it.

  3. Contactless technology from Barclaycard;

    Top Pants on fire nomination because it does nothing more than indulge 2nd rate creative brains with a 3rd rate idea

  4. What about L’Oreal and their latest message in their “because you’re worth it” campaign? I think the clue to the deception involved with their latest advert is in the first four letters of the product category (shampoo)! L’Oreal promise to restore women’s limp, lifeless hair into lustrous, thick, strong tresses. The model – Cheryl Cole in this case – displays the evidence, only its not just her hair we can see. It has been styled with “some natural hair extensions”. No before and after pictures, but the implication is still that you can have hair like mine by using this shampoo. Only you can’t! So maybe not a creative ego issue but certainly a cynical disregard for what their customers are worth – a bit of false hope that will become apparent on first trial. Still no different to most cosmetics I suppose!

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