WHEN ADVERTISING WORKS WELL – AND WHEN IT FALLS FLAT ON ITS FACE

When advertising works well – and when it falls flat on its face …

This was the issue that was at the heart of a recent Bristol Media event we attended, entitled Permission Denied. Patrick Collister gave an insightful (and at times, brutally honest) view of adverts that work well – and those that don’t quite hit the mark.

With a career spanning over 30 years, Patrick has been executive creative director and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, as well as creative lead for Google’s The Zoo. During this time, he’s built up a brilliant back-catalogue of ads to refer to, many of which he used to emphasise his approach to advertising. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourites…

Be purposeful

Good examples

Patrick gave some great examples of ads from mission brands that reflect their values and engage their audience with the topics they care about. The Body Shop’s ‘fat Barbie’ ad did this brilliantly with an image of a doll with a realistic figure and the tagline ‘there are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do’. This was decades ago, but still stands up as a shining example of how to draw attention to your values – in this case positive body image for women.

Patagonia turned the concept of advertising on its head with its ad that stated ‘Don’t buy this jacket’. This bold statement ran during the week of Black Friday and the brand backed it up with editorial explaining why it doesn’t want to be a part of the notion of consumerism that Black Friday represents.

But Patrick also showed that you don’t have to be a mission brand to be purposeful in your advertising. Miracle Whip is an American product very similar to mayonnaise. It found a town called Mayo and paid the town to change its name to Miracle Whip. Not a particularly strong message in that alone, except that the repercussions were phenomenal for the town. After gaining publicity for the brand’s ‘stunt’ it revitalised the town’s businesses and found a new sense of community – and Miracle Whip has inadvertently found a purpose in working with local communities too.

Bad examples

Cadbury launched a ‘four-tone chocolate bar’ for Independence Day to ‘celebrate India’s unity in diversity’. The bar featured dark, ‘blended’, milk and white chocolate in one bar but was heavily criticised for its clumsy attempt to ‘solve racism’.

Skittles went for the ironic approach and put on a lavish Broadway show as a marketing stunt during the Super Bowl, featuring songs along the lines of ‘advertising ruins everything’.

“The trouble is that this ruins advertising because too many people agree with the sentiment,” explains Patrick. “We need to remember that selling stuff is what we’re about and that it can be honourable.”

Be social

Good examples

Being social is all about finding creative ways to get your audience to engage with your brand – Burger King is a master at this. One great example is when Burger King used prom season to ask Wendy’s to the prom. It simply posted ‘@Wendy’s – Prom?’ on a billboard of a branch that neighbours Wendy’s. People were soon posting it all over social media and Wendy’s joined in to say ‘yes’. The story created a buzz on social and generated a mass of press coverage too.

Honda is another brand that knows how to listen to its audience and then respond with creative dialogue. Patrick showed us a brilliant campaign that mirrored the images that people posted of the Honda logo online. If someone posted the Honda logo mowed into a lawn or painted on their toenails, staff would reply by recreating the same image with the poster’s name mowed into a lawn or painted on their toenails!

Be agile

Good examples

Forward planning is great, but many creative opportunities come from being able to respond in the moment. Oreo is a brilliant example – it jumped on the moment when the lights went out during the Superbowl and told people they could still ‘dunk in the dark’.

Ikea found a similarly brilliant opportunity to cease the moment when Balenciaga made a $2,145 bag that had a striking resemblance to Ikea’s 50p blue bag. Ikea quickly put out an ad with a simple side-by-side shot of the two bags, with a tongue-in-cheek guide on how to tell if your bag is a ‘real’ Ikea. Not only was it responsive, it also used humour to make their point in a lighthearted way.

To read more about the event, including Patrick’s 7 ‘be’s’ of brand behaviour, head to our other blog from this event – The new rules of brand advertising.

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