Wednesday, 24 November 2010

So what does it all mean ?

It doesn’t take you much to work out that the world of advertising is almost a parallel universe. Things appear to be the same, but there are some subtle differences. Take the chocolate manufacturer Lindor. Their current commercial opens with the line “Do you dream in chocolate ?”. At face value, the line feels OK until you actually analyse it. What the bloody hell does “Do you dream in chocolate” actually mean ? And if that isn’t odd enough, have you heard Wilkinson Sword’s “Free your skin” line ? Again on the face of it, nothing appears to be unusual. But in reality, it’s a line that doesn’t make any sense at all.

Quite often, advertising cleverly throws us into worlds that simply don’t exist. But human beings have the nasty habit of suspending their belief and accepting what they see and feel as real. What I am talking about is nothing to do with my recent article in which some advertisers try and pull the wool over our eyes. No, I am talking about the scenarios that are created to show a brand in the best possible light.

Last night I saw a TV commercial for Ferrero Rocher. It tells the story of some gods noshing on some confectionary in Heaven. One of them drops a wrapper, it falls down to earth and we mere mortals discover the special secret. Oh come on. As if gods eat Ferrero Rocher ! This ad is one of the follow ups to the ‘Ambassador’s Party’ commercial where a woman says “Mr Ambassador, you are really spoiling us” and the voiceover proclaims “Ferrero Rocher, a sign of good taste”. Again, when the penny drops you realise what crazy, unreal scenarios they both are, but in fact these commercials are actually sending out incredibly powerful messages. Although Ferrero Rocher is dirt cheap to buy, the brand is positioning itself as a treat...Something special and very rare. And we all know that if something is rare, it is highly sought after.

Here are a couple more examples: Pierce Brosnan and Omega watches. It’s a winning combination. Smart, elegant watches being worn by a handsome ‘action man’ kind of guy. But think about it a little more and you suddenly realise that good time-keeping actually has nothing to do with a bloke who acts. Martini: For many years, we encountered advertising that showed gorgeous and attractive people living the high life in exotic destinations. But again, what has your alcohol consumption got to do with attractive people ? The answer is: It has everything to do with them. Without these powerful associations, the watch is just a chunk of metal and the drink is merely flavoured water infused with alcohol.

These ‘associations’ and many others are the mainstay of advertising today. Yet when it comes to local and regional radio advertising, many advertisers are failing to play this card. There’s just too much local radio advertising around that fails to put the product or service under any kind of spotlight at all. Lack of positioning and zero aspiration will leave the listener feeling completely neutral. People buy products and services because they want them, they will not be sold on something just because it’s half price or whatever. By making that parallel universe appear real, your advertiser’s products and services will take on a whole new meaning.

John Calvert.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Advertise at Christmas, feel the benefit all year round.

“Hi Dick, how’s business ? We’ve got the Christmas shopping season coming up. Just wondering whether you need a radio commercial to reflect this” said my email.

Dick replied: “Hi John. Sorry we are so busy the last thing we need is more business”.

I didn’t know whether to take that reply as a complement or not !

I recall in my earlier years of being in the radio advertising business, Christmas was a big thing. At this time of year, we’d dust off the Christmas library music albums and pretty much every commercial we made had a seasonal feel to them.

Nowadays, advertiser’s appetites for promoting their goods at Christmas has lessened considerably. Folks such as M&S still do their celebrity-packed campaigns, but on a local and regional level, the amount of Christmas campaigns does not appear to match what went on in the eighties and 90’s. And this is not because of the recession either. I and many other proddies have noticed that over the years, we don’t make as many Christmas radio adverts as we used to.

At a networking event, one business owner said to me. “Christmas is a dead cert. It’s not a one-off event. It happens every year, the public know what to do and they will come to my store and shop. There is no need to advertise at Christmas.”

I understand the theory of what he is saying. Christmas and everything it stands for happens by default and in many ways, people are ‘programmed’ to buy gifts for each other. But if I was his main competitor eavesdropping on that conversation, I would have been on the phone to my radio station representative to book a hearty campaign with the deliberate aim of increasing my market share.

In my view, Christmas is the perfect time to present your brand in a brilliant light. In December, pretty much everyone rides on a wave of happiness, excitement, anticipation and fun. In fact, many people find the build up to Christmas better than the actual day itself ! Sceptical business owners should realise 2 things.

1: By helping to create those waves of excitement, happiness or whatever, people will associate those feelings with your brand. Remember the epic Christmas ads from Woolworths ? When those went to air, we all knew Christmas was here. “Woolworths is Christmas” was a line they once used. (My company did the jingle for it) And at the time, it couldn’t be more true. This year, when ‘The X Factor’ came back to our screens, Facebook status updates all over the land proclaimed “Christmas is on it’s way”.

2: Even if you’re busy and can’t take on any more work, advertise anyway. If you don’t want to sell goods or services, use the season to sell your brand. Generally, most folks are in an emotionally good place at Christmas, so use the season to make friends with them.

On December 26th Christmas will be gone, but tens of thousands of businesses will still need customers to keep them going until December comes round again. By being on the radio and associating yourself with the hype, you can do no wrong.

John Calvert