Monday, May 28, 2007

Ad Awards

What’s hot and what’s not right now

You’ve heard them say that for broadcasters, ‘Filling’ is what they call movies and everything else on TV we like to watch. ‘Content’ is what they’re actually selling (the advertising). From our perspective, we tolerate the content in order to be able to see the filling.
Having sat through two of the three Lord of the Rings episodes on etv, I want a game plan for the third episode: Return of the King. The plan is called: How to avoid nuisance ad breaks.

1). Make popcorn
2). Add a paragraph to an article in progress
3). Make list of chores to do for Monday
4). Mute the TV and read a page of a novel
5). Sms someone

The reason these escape clauses are necessary is because commercial breaks ruin the ethos of the movie, and are usually not nearly as entertaining.
There’s something wrong with that. Sometimes advertising is entertaining. I’ve seen an advertisement for paint (not released) in South Africa that has a black guy and white guy visiting houses in suburbia. When it’s a white owned home, the black guy plays skivvie, and busily gets to work while the white guys put their feet up and relax with a beer. But when they turn up at a home with a black family, the white guy becomes the skivvie. It’s a comical look at the changing BEE/cultural mindset of the country.


At the moment, Toyota is producing some good material, not only on television but also on the radio. Have you heard Bill Flynn playing the bushman interpreter (Toyota Landcruiser radio spot)? Part of what makes it work is that it is telling a story. It also works because it’s funny. And it brilliantly conveys the message within the fairy tale of the Nambeeb; that in your Toyota, you’re not going to experience any fear. I did wonder whether there is such a thing as a desert wolf (in Africa), but apparently there is – in Ethiopia.
The other commercial I’ve seen at the cinema and on television. It features a boertjie who notices he is not attracting the attention of a girl he likes. He has a makeover, but when he returns to his tough Toyota bakkie in a pink shirt, his car feels he is too much of a softy: ‘Hey, it’s me. Open the door.’


Nedbank is doing very well, not only in its advertising, but they are working hard to win back market share lost a few years ago. In terms of advertising, it’s fresh, but not as dynamic and hardworking as the bank it is representing. And I don’t think highlighting the ‘N’ as a Nedbank ‘N’ in ‘Make thiNgs happen’ is very effective. It’s too incidental, even untidy. I don’t think it works. Perhaps the entire word ‘happen’ can be converted into a Nedbank font so that NEDBANK = HAPPEN/HAPPENING, or all, or just the first letters could be using the Nedbank font. After all, Nedbank are setting the standard for low banking fees, and at the moment, Nedbank is where a lot of consumer friendly banking is happening.


I don’t want to watch a junk commercial where a snake falls on a man’s head in a jungle, and then he grabs an AIRWAVE which miraculously restores his blocked passages. This is the sort of thing a young rookie at an ad agency dreams up, and possibly because he’s had one awesome idea for something he knew something about, no one thinks to second guess the idea.
Here’s mine: A row of men, perhaps prisoners or schoolboys, or even sailors. They are distracted by something – watching rugby, or lifeguard duty, or homework, or reading the paper (theoretically the same theme can be repeated using different scenarios). A beautiful woman approaches, walks by, everyone notices her, some even smile and close their eyes. But one man (is he crazy?) does not notice her. His buddy beside him offers him an AIRWAVE. When the woman returns, he’s able to smell her perfume just like the others and everyone (including the attractive lady, who notices this change) is happy.

When I was at advertising school, I found myself frowning on commercials that made you laugh. I believed that they were not going to sell the product at the end of the day. Although that remains a cogent argument, commercials that make you laugh do a great deal to improve brand acceptability. If we welcome the intrusion of a commercial because we like it, the chances are we will become increasingly positive towards that brand. Hence, the brand conveyed through a comical message cannot be dismissed. On the other hand, a brand that consistently irritates you (through repetitive, unimaginative marketing), is going to be blocked, and flagged by the consumer as: To Avoid in Future.

Finally, I want to repeat something my lecturers told me at advertising school. They said becoming generic is the worst thing that can happen to a brand. In fact, the opposite is true. I recently received sms’s from a friend traveling through Dubai. She wanted to know which type of iPod she should buy, and several messages later I realized she thought iPod was a word like TV or radio. In fact, only one company, Steve Jobs’ Apple, make the iPod. Other companies make their version of the portable music player. But since the iPod is now generic (and also an icon of our era), it means Apple needs to do very little to sell their player (as long as their distribution keeps up). Other generics include Speedo, Hoover, Xerox, IBM, Coke (as the only cola) and Microsoft (as conventional software). Generics kill advertisers though, because it is very difficult to market a brand against a generic in many cases, particularly when the product category is still new, or sophisticated enough to rebuff imitators. In time though, this can change.

Tonight when I watch Lord of the Rings, I will probably not do any of those 5 things mentioned above. I’ll probably flip to another channel. The broadcasters seem to know this, as it seems all advertising seems to flow out at the same time intervals. If that is the case, we will allow ourselves to be exposed to advertising that at the very least entertains us, even better if it makes us laugh. Obviously the best advertising bears some relevance to the contents juxtaposed alongside it. People interested in Lord of the Rings might want to know how much, where and when they can get their hands on the latest Harry Potter Book, or the latest EA Games version of Rings, or other Tolkien-based bestselling material. TV needs to keep its content and filling Inline. Google does this for the internet, but what keeps TV’s advertising from becoming gargled? In time, perhaps Google or some other interactive software will make for a more seamless and relevant commercial fill on TV, unless the future of TV is the internet, which seems more likely.

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