There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on in the advertising industry, after Kevin Roberts’ inexplicable (unless you knew him) faux pas. In case you hadn’t heard, he used an interview with a business publication to say there’s no problem with diversity in the advertising industry. Turns out he was trying to drum up notoriety to sell his forthcoming book.
In the ensuing weeks, much has been written about the need for more enlightened attitudes to diversity and more generally, progressive attitudes to gender roles. Unilever have been seen to be leading the way in this – as with various issues to do with fairness, ethics and sustainability.
A good example is Lynx. The old campaign, ‘The Lynx Effect,’ made by BBH was based on the compelling insight ‘teenage boys are desperate for sex.’ It was one of the greatest and most successful of all time. The new one ‘Find Your Magic’ by 72 and Sunny is nice too, but so much more ‘respectable’ it gives me one of those ambivalence headaches. I want to love it – and it’s got lots to commend it; it’s clever, well-observed, witty and so on. But will it be as effective as The Lynx Effect? I have a nagging doubt.
I am also reminded of the circularity of everything. Older readers may remember that in the early 1980s, we saw the emergence of the phenomenon known as ‘The New Man’. I believe it was coined in the Washington Post, reviewing Dustin Hoffman’s (excellent) cross-dressing comedy, Tootsie. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the New Man was someone “who rejects sexist attitudes and the traditional male role, esp. in the context of domestic responsibilities and childcare, and who is (or is held to be) caring, sensitive, and non-aggressive”. Sound familiar?
As so often, it appears to have taken us thirty years to rediscover something we already knew. For that, Kevin, we thank you.
“Healthy scepticism” is the best way to describe my feelings about creative awards ceremonies. But they do showcase some fantastic work. This is one of my favourites from cannes 2016:
Credit to McCanns London for this.
Just imagine having a job which involves making stuff like this for a living?
The line is attributed to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. How very approriate.
I was remindeed of it today, as I read an article by Benedict Pringle in Campaign about negative advertising in political campaigns (is there any other kind?) He draws attention to the way Zac Goldsmith has been criticised for his negative approach in the campaign to become London Mayor. The winner, Sadiq Kahn had an unusually positive story to tell – essentially his biography; a rags-to-riches story of the son of a Pakistani bus driver who made good.
Pringle reckons negative campaigns have three arguments in their favour:
- People remember negatives better than positives
- Negative stories are more believable when it comes to politicians
- Negative stories are more likely to be passed on, generating extra reach
I don’t particularly disagree with any of this but it seems a bit strange to be justifying negative campaigning in this way when it is very much the default option. I can hardly think of any well-known political campaigns that haven’t railed against something or set out to scare the bejesus out of us in the event the other side should get in.
The last British general election provides a classic case. The polls were neck and neck and the Conservatives had been employing a scattergun approach, until they seized upon a winning tactic – namely frightening us with the prospect that a Labour win would bring effective power to the Scottish Nationalists (SNP). The rationale was that in a hung parliament (which we all expected) the SNP would inevitably forge a partnership with Labour and hold the balance of power. Despite both Labour and the SNP declaring they had no intention of forging any such alliance, it worked a treat and the Conservatives won.
Positive campaigns like that of Khan are few and far between. The upcoming US Presidential race is likely to be particularly dirty. But that is the norm.
This gives me another opportunity to remind you of the Daddy of them all:
Let’s hear it for one of marketing’s great ideas that’s almost universally unrecognised. Yes it’s the humble Sports Direct mug. You’ve got one. I’ve got one. We’ve all got one, possibly several. Every time you buy something (come on, you can admit it, we’ve all been there) from Sports Direct online, you get one of these oversized mugs, like it or not. And even though it’s frankly rather ugly (and it tells the world you shop at Sports Direct) your sustainability-driven conscience won’t let you throw it out. So you keep this tiny advertisement for Mike Ashley’s sports empire on show in your home for ever. The cost to him is about a quarter to a fifth of bugger all. And your lovely home even gives Sports Direct a kind of genteel respectability. It’s utterly brilliant.
When this appeared the US auto industry was in crisis and Chrysler was the sickest of all. It was forced to revamp its product line and its business.
This commercial was a defiant statement of bold intent – it broke the mould of clever, witty car ads, taking a full break in the Super Bowl with a celebration of the motor city itself. Creatively it turns perception on its head. Weakness is turned into strength. The gritty reality of Detroit is at the core of the brand and the US motor industry. It has rediscovered its essence. It has integrity. It is real.
The theme of light patriotism is a thread we see elsewhere too.
I could nit-pick. That choir is a bit iffy and the whole thing is a bit too polished, but this is fundamentally what advertising is all about. a big brand idea rooted in a brand truth.