Good old fashioned advertising

Good old fashioned advertising

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by Mark Sherrington

I know I carry a torch for the new stuff, you know, digital, new media, the collision of marketing and technology, that kind of thing.

And I admit that over the years I have taken more than a few pot shot at advertising agencies who increasingly look like the lonely polar bear standing on a piece of melting ice in a world that is getting warmer and more crowded.

But every now and again I am reminded that a great agency and a clear brand benefit can produce a magical television commercial. And while airing that ad in a high rating show – the interrupt and repeat model – should be just one of many things they know how to do to get the message across, a great ad with high visibility can do the trick just fine, all on its own.

Yes there will be wastage, it is a shotgun approach not a rifle, and no, they won’t really be able to measure the effectiveness very accurately. But just because half is wasted and you don’t know which half, it doesn’t mean that the half that works is not a piece of creative brilliance.

You must understand that video streaming speed is a real issue in South Africa. This ad addresses a big consumer need. Vodacom are the biggest player but the market is very competitive. Smartphone penetration is only 20% but rising fast. So it is good to remind subscribers and potential switchers that biggest = best when it comes to one of the biggest benefits of switching to a smartphone with Vodacom (yes that is Vodaphone over here – haven’t quite completed the global brand migration but they are almost there).

Understanding the brief

I imagine that like 99.9% of ads this one just popped into the heads of the creative team (alongside several other attempts to answer the brief). Did they use any of the processes or techniques to get there? I doubt it. One technique is to take the brand benefit and think when this might be most important to a consumer based on an insight about their lives - this is one P&G came up with years ago. Our washing powder is 0.001% better at getting greasy stains out of man-made fibres in cold temperatures. Who gives a shit? Well what if it was your favourite shirt, the one you were planning to wear on a hot date? You get the idea – and yes it was an actual ad in the ‘80s but for Persil not Ariel (I was the brand manager and no, we did not actually use the precise question).

The torture test for streaming video on your new smartphone is when you are using it to keep the baby quiet. Great insight for the female market. Who knows?

Was it all down to a good brief? I doubt it, maybe. Fact is that you don’t often have a nice clear cut benefit to talk about – does that explain most of the lousy ads we see? Was the brief for this one laser sharp – maybe, probably not.

Old school

It’s just a great ad – bang on message, engaging, fresh, and memorable – you want to tell people about it, you look out for it on the TV. And it works. I am with Vodacom and while I too get frustrated with video streaming I did not know they were the fastest, so it would be useless to switch. This morning my personal trainer, Michelle, was telling me she had tried to look at something on YouTube I’d recommended to her (it was Bill Hicks – this is a true story so I can give you all the details – training is going nicely, thanks for asking). She didn’t find him that funny but confessed that the buffering had somewhat screwed with his comic timing. “What contract are you on?” I asked and then proceeded to tell her that she might like to think about switching to Vodacom because they are the fastest. This one ad reinforced my brand loyalty and may be responsible for generating a new loyal customer. Not bad – pity they will never be able to measure or attribute the cost-effectiveness of just this one piece of brand communications.

But credit where it is due – an old school agency, using old school creativity, to produce an old school ad, to air on an old school medium, has delivered the goods. There is life in the old dogs yet.

There is of course an irony here (not the Alanis Morissette type which is just sod's law, not any old irony but a real irony, the kind that defines the meaning of irony). The ad brilliantly promotes the use of video-on-demand on a mobile digital device to – potentially at least – a profiled user who can respond directly and spread a message virally. And that of course is why the ice is melting under the polar bear’s feet. And the polar bear will die if he does not learn how to fly – quickly.

Read more from Mark Sherrington in our Library.

Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 12 Aug 2013
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