Whatever you do, don’t mention the name

I was being interviewed by someone recently. They wanted my opinion about the relationship between social-media and advertising.

I said, give me an example. She said, “The crowd sourcing thing that happened at that railway station.”

I said, who was that for? She said, “Vodafone.”

I said, Vodafone?

She said, “Er, I think so, or maybe it was Nokia. Someone like that, a mobile phone company anyway.”

I said, let’s back up.

You want to know about the relationship between social-media and advertising. And as an example you’ve given me a commercial, and you can’t remember the name of the company that ran it.

What was the message you got out of that piece of communication?

She said, “Well, I suppose that it’s good to be connected. Mobile phones help everyone stay in touch and interact.”

I said, okay who is that unique to?

She said, “Well no one obviously, all mobile phones do that.”

I said, Okay, so do you think the brief was: let’s run some ads with a generic benefit and sell a lot of mobile phones, our competitors as well as our own?

She said huffily, “Obviously not.”

I said okay, so before you look at the media, look at what you’re putting in the media.

Probably you should sort out what you want to do, before you sort out where to do it.

That’s the problem.

We think we’re in the communication business, but actually we’re in the fashion business. A lot of people start at the answer and work their way back to a problem they can shoe-horn into that answer.

Currently the fashion is social-media. So that’s the answer, now what’s the question.

The actual company that ran the dancing-and-singing-in-the-station ad was T Mobile. The odd thing for me is that it wouldn’t have taken much to get her to remember that.

You don’t have to change a frame of the film. All you have to do is have a line at the end that says something like, “It’s not just a flash-mob. It’s a T Mob”.

Just an old fashioned mnemonic to link it to your brand. Then you can’t remember it as, “It’s not just a flash-mob, it’s a Vodafone”, or a Nokia, or anything else.

And you’re not spending your money advertising your competitors.

But that’s the problem with old-fashioned mnemonics. They’re old fashioned. And we’re not starting from the point of what works.

We’re starting from the point of what’s fashionable.

And fashionable thinking is all you have to do is get the brand values right. If your advertising reflects your brand values people will automatically know who it’s for. Because your brand values are unique.

But are they?

I was having a debate with some students a while back. They wanted to know about celebrities in advertising. When should you use them, when do they work?

I said, okay let’s take David Beckham’s Nike ads as an example.

What does David Beckham have to do with Nike and what does “Impossible is nothing” mean anyway?

Is it just, “Nothing is impossible” backwards? If so, why?

The students spent ten minutes telling me why Beckham was the right image for the brand. The line was modern and catchy. The ads were well written and well shot.

After ten minutes I pointed out David Beckham doesn’t advertise Nike. He advertises Adidas.

We spent 10 minutes discussing the wrong brand. And all the students went, “Oh yeah”.

And wondered what point I was trying to make. That’s why I often feel as if I’m in a different business.

The name of the brand or product is almost seen as a nuisance. Something that gets in the way of the advertising.

It reminds me of art galleries which are sponsored by big companies. These firms can have their names discreetly on the outside of the gallery, but nowhere near the art.

The art must remain pure and free from grubby commercialism. Maybe that’s what we do now. Sponsorship.

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    ‘You only get an oo with Typhoo’ is one of my faves. So to ‘Schhh…You-Know-Who’ and of course ‘For Mash Get Smash’ was a work of genius.
    What agencies reject this kind of thinking?!

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    Whenever people mention GGT or your work Dave, it always tends to be focused around how you fit the brand name into the ads. (Hello Tosh, On and on, Sacla, etc)

    Yet the award mentality seems to have an effect here. I remember hearing about ads where agencies deliberately left out the brand name because it wouldn’t win an award with it there. Ok you don’t want to be ramming it in people’s faces in an unpleasant or unentertaining manner. But look at something like Compare the Meerkat for a great example of how heavy branding and creativity can go together.

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    Mr Trott, Do you have any idea how enlightening your posts are? Just wondering.

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    Funny you should say that Rob.
    I wrote a post on that yesterday, probably for later in the week.
    Well spotted.

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    It just goes to show how all sports brands are exactly the same, all mobile phone brands are exactly the same, all banks are exactly the same…. all you need is a catchy line (with the name) so that people remember yours over everyone else, there’s no other reason really why they would choose you over anyone else.

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    “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.” Maybe De Bono has a point. Having said that, why mend an engine that isn’t broken? Is the ‘new thinking’ that agencies want to try and appear like they aren’t advertising. The thinking that somehow there is automatic resistance to being sold to? I don’t buy it.

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    Hi John,
    It sems to me that the English are ashamed of selling.
    So we try to pretend that we’re doing isn’t advertising.
    The NY way is to accept that people know this is advertising.
    So let’s have fun with it.

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    I look forward to your posts for the sheer pleasure of your writing but above all for the quality of your “old fashioned” thinking. You say all that I hold dear and was taught to about our business……..”I often feel as if I’m in a different business”…..sums it up perfectly.

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    “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.” – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

  • Hi Dave,

    Your story reminds me of the big Chocolate Santas at Christmas:
    A sheet of tinsel, a thin coating of chocolate, and a lot of stale air.
    The dream fails to deliver. Chocolate Santa’s are all air.
    How many campaigns today are just Chocolate Santas?

    People only buy a dream when some form of reality is deliverable.
    Here’s a few clients who bought ads where their products benefited enormously
    because like you, they knew there was no point in running a marathon to fall in the last mile:-

    Dream: Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX for any other lager .
    Reality: The whole lager market becomes the brand value judgement.

    Dream: The World’s favourite Airline.
    Reality: The World becomes the brand value judgement.

    Dream: Lipsmackinthirstquenchinacetastin…Pepsi.
    Reality: Fun becomes the brand value judgement.

    Dream: Lakeside: Discover the art of shopping.
    Reality: Fashionable shopping becomes the brand value judgement.

    I used the words “brand value judgement”, because these campaigns created a brand by which all other brands would be judged against. Now that’s where the serious money is made. NS& I is a prime example of this.

  • So strange, I was thinking just this morning about how much I hate the premise of T-Mobile’s ‘Josh is forming a superband’ adverts. I think the premise of the ad is that T-Mobile are giving away free texts and mobile internet access – having just checked their website, any PAYG customer who tops up £10 in a month will get free mobile internet and texts the next month – for ever. That’s a great offer, but I don’t think the ads that I’ve seen explain it – or sell it. Instead they mumble on about Josh creating a superband. But a) why would you want to, and b) why would having free texts and mobile internet help particularly? I was wondering if this was an example of advertising that was created in a different country, and the translation doesn’t work? But no, as Dave has now pointed out to me, the problem is that there’s no brand name, and the ad doesn’t really tell me about any benefits of becoming a customer. Unless I want to join Josh and make a huge cacophany.

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    It’s a weird one.
    I used these published case histories in a market comparison recently.

    Cannes Gold. Goodby Silverstein.
    ‘Sprint’ rebranded ‘The Now Network’.
    700,000 visits, 45 secs. per impression.
    TV launch.

    Cannes Bronze. Saatchi & Saatchi.
    T-Mobile pan European Campaign.
    ‘Post your face site’ engages brand.
    1 m hits in 3 DAYS! + 1.2 m free media!
    TV launch.

    The thing to remember is T-Mobile had to jump a number of linguistic hoops through a multutitude of languages. That’s like running 100 yards through a
    linguistic minefield. My guess is the line needed to translate into many languages and it’s cheaper to have one line than several, so creatives get stuck with the Europarliament decision of Cows and Tables all have four legs, so every cow is a table and every tabel a cow. The meaning becomes lost.

    Both of these campaigns succeeded because they were give the Susan Boyle treatment. Whack it on TV, then sit back and wait for Social Media to pick-up on it.

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    When did you realise their tanks were on the lawn? Who started it all off?
    Will the likes of Webster’s work, for instance, ever return or is it still here but in a different guise? Will the slogan ever return? Will catchy jingles ever be hummed in the playground again? Does the quick fix culture allow it? Will clients ever start fighting the good fight again? Heads constantly swayed. Was it always ever so? I guess with every yang we have to have a ying.

  • Dave, Consider the almost neverending list of great advertising jingles that have come out of this country. Original or cleverly adapted tunes that sang from the roof tops a simple, enjoyable, meaningful message inextricably attached to the client product name. Are you saying we are too ashamed to try such things again? I hope not. Agreed, it’s been a long time since anyone used music to overtly and effectively. Let’s have a top ten best jingles of all time, ever!! I’ll start the ball rolling with ‘A million housewives everyday pick up a ……’ or ‘A finger of Fudge is just enough…..’ sing it people! Sing it!

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    Trebor Mints are a minty bit stronger

    Stick ’em up your ****

    And they’ll last a bit longer [don’t tell me you never sung it]

    + Bob’s a finger of fudge comes into play too

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    R White’s Secret lemonade drinker for me. Sorry Dave I could never remember all the words to your lipsmakinthirstquenchin…for Pepsi when I was in the playground. Liked it though. Um Bongo um bongo they drink it in the congo is cool but the best jingle combo with illustration for me is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LvLn9PWln8

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    Golden Wonder, they’re jungle fresh. Take it from me. PEEEEEEEEEEANUTS!

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    Try this for a jingle: “You’ve got two yellow cards.”

    I’ve just come back from the Valley where Charlton beat Bristol Rovers 4-2, but not before their number 4 managed to get two yellow cards and stay on the pitch!

    The ref was dishing out yellow cards like Confetti. It was two all, until 15,000 Charlton fans sang “You’ve got two yellow cards” to ‘The marriage of Figaro’. Peer pressure seemed to win the game. People just love to join in don’t they, it’s a bit like compulsory line-dancing or that awful rowing boat song where everyone ends up with skidmarks on the outside of their trousers, which reminds me of Beanz Meanz Heinz.

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    I think that’s a great point Kevin.
    Give people something they can join in with.
    Something they can take away and use in their own life.
    How many times have you heard ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ used to describe something with no nasty surprises?
    Or ‘he’s a Marmite person’ to describe someone who polarises people.
    Those are two bits of advertising I wish I’d done.

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    I also loved “Ooh Aah Daily Star” which got translated in “Ooh Aah Cantona”.
    That’s understanding your market.

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    Give it to me, Dave.

    The Cornetto I know you have hidden behind your back.

    Grazie mille.

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    It’s the pack mentality playing out.

    People love to share a joke and a smile

    (although more and more of them seem to be fighting it).

    Give them a jingle, a tagline, a gag – something to copy and share.

    They love it.

    They’re all in the same gang – singing on the terraces of life.

    It’s like soma.

    How many eardrums got burst when I was at school because of Steve Henry…

    Whallop – you’ve been tango’ed mate.

  • For some reason, anthems and hooks are things to avoid in ‘sophisticated’ creative circles. I remember when I lived in Sydney, Aussie rock band Midnight OIl were interviewed on the radio about their new (and last) album. The lead singer and co-writer Peter Garrett said, “We’re known for our anthemic-singalong music, like ‘Beds are burning’. With the new album we’ve steered clear of that sort of obvious approach.” They haven’t been heard of since. Mozart certainly didn’t shy away from something catchy. Or Beethoven for that matter. You ain’t gotta hit, if you ain’t gotta hook.

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    Kevin & Dave,

    Good point about giving something people can take away and use…

    On the golf course the phrase ‘someone’s had their weetabix’ is continually used if someone over hits a shot. Good job they’ve cottoned on to it’s worth and gone back to that strap.

    Same thing kinda applies with ‘Shoulda gone to specsavers’. It gets said (or thought) when any bad glasses are seen.

    Both have entered into common parlance. To achieve that is surely the holy grail… it keeps working long after the campaign dies.

    As for your students who didn’t remember that ‘impossible is nothing’ is Adidas – they should be ashamed! It’s been engraved into my mind ever since I saw that billboard with the dangling footballers on it. Of course they may have thought ‘Trott’s lost the plot’, and been too afraid of correcting you.

    As for the Tmobile ‘superband’ campaign – I think its an example of a new kind of music designed especially to be played on MP3s. As you once put it Dave.

    It ticks all the social media boxes: conversational (what would you do with x…?), followable story, original content etc. Of course the TV spots don’t do any selling – they’re just there to remind you of the story or send you somewhere else… like signposts.
    Bloody expensive ones.

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    Although the ‘sophisticated’ may be worth a few pennies, they’re not the mass market.

    As Dave says: ‘sell to the Sun reader’, because that’s where the mass market lies.

    Do you think that the more ‘high-brow’ advertising trends of recent years reflect the falling numbers of Sun readers working in agency land?

    Articles abound regarding grad clones who all think they’re different but come from the same middle-class backrgounds, attended the same ‘elite’ universities, etc.

    Does the death of the jingle chart the loss of a certain breed within the creative industries?

    Wow, that almost sound like I’ve thought about it – better undermine it with some throw-away shyte – like:

    sod sophistication – it’s boring, conservative and MOR – let’s all get mashed of our trollies and sing along to ‘we hope it’s chips, it’s chips’ on the way from the boozer to the kebab house!

    Yeah, that’s better.