Sunday, 19 July 2015

You Know What I Want To Drink On A Bright Summer’s Day? Small Amounts Of Hot Liquid

I don’t really understand why Lavazza decided that it made sense for it to be a sponsor of Wimbledon. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good coffee as much as the next person.

(This is advertising after all. We all need that drip feed of caffeine. Or failing that, hard drugs.)

But it does strike me as a curious play on the part of an Italian premium coffee brand, to sponsor a major sporting event that is a) quintessentially British, and b) already associated with a number of other foods and drinks.

I can imagine that the Lavazza target market and the tennis audience have a lot of overlap. But the characteristic of being generally upper middle class shouldn’t really be justification its own for such a leap.

A good contrast to this is Robinson’s. They make squash. Tennis players drink squash-like drinks. And more to the point, young children of all demographics and wealth levels drink squash, generally after running around too much and collapsing like exhausted bees.

The fact is, on a hot British summer day, people do not go running for the espresso machine. They drink squash. Because it is refreshing.

It’s not rocket science.

That said, perhaps the most interesting element of the Wimbledon sponsorship story is this: according to Adweek, the most successful brand of Wimbledon 2015 in terms of social buzz wasn’t Lavazza, nor was it Robinson’s.

It was Pimm’s. Who are not, in fact, a sponsor at all.

Food (or should that be drink?) for thought.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Schweppes Does A Stylish Drinks Ad. What Did You Expect?

A nice, short and sweet spot by Fred&Farid for Schweppes tonic water. A few days ago I was talking about the fun, simple directness of Oasis’ “We have sales targets” ad. Well, Schweppes takes a quite different take on the challenge, and it’s pretty eye-catching as well. It’s adult, slightly sensual and, well, pretty mouth-watering.

Typical France, right?

I mean, there’s actually nothing all that French about ice cubes, tonic and citrus peel, the elements that make up the core imagery of the spot. But it does feel rather French, in a stylish (and slightly off-kilter) way.

The “What did you expect?” campaign started last year, featuring the star power of Penelope Cruz, but if anything I think that this new effort is even stronger. Using a celebrity can be fun but it always runs the risk of overshadowing the product itself.

Most importantly, the new spot is simple and tightly scripted, down to the fun little “Cheers” at the end. Ice, tonic, peel, moment of attractive characters staring at each other, done. It’s snappy, straightforward, and manages to make a soft drink not just premium, but outright glamorous.

And visually, it’s pure “thirst appeal”, and the product is the hero throughout – without it feeling over-sold. It’s just a beautiful, rather irreverent wee ad.

Now I really want to go into bars and just order Schweppes tonic on ice. With a bit of lemon peel.

This is strange.

Did I just get advertised to?

Check out the ad below.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Come On Apple, Quit Talking About Yourself So Much

It was going so well. “Shot on iPhone 6” is a fantastic campaign. I’ve written about it already, as a great example of a company bringing its audience right inside of its brand. A brand allowing itself to be defined by its customers.

I suppose in a way the new “If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone” spots do the same thing. The problem is that they define Apple by the very worst of its attitude, and the very worst of its customers. Smug, self-absorbed – and just not very interesting.

("Smug, self-absorbed and just not very interesting" was my second choice for the name of this blog.)

“Shot on iPhone 6” was great because it wasn’t really about the iPhone, or about Apple – it was about the talent and personality of the varied people who engage with the brand. That displacement and pluralism gave it power.

“If it’s not an iPhone…” is instead just a puff piece – which has very little to do with the Apple brand. Apple’s mantra is to think differently – to be unique. And the iPhone may be unique in some way. But simply saying that doesn’t make it so.

As Adweek notes, it’s a half step away from being a parody of itself. We’re already pretty well stocked with those.

(And they're often pretty hilarious.)

Frankly, if nothing else this kind of ad should be beneath Apple. Talking consumer satisfaction and how well the hardware is optimised – that’s something you expect from Microsoft or Samsung. Someone with something to prove. Not from the market leader.

(And I wouldn’t necessarily trust any company that feels the need to talk about customers liking the product. If you’re the best tech company in the world, making a good product really ought to be a given.)

It speaks to a lack of confidence. It sounds less like a message, and more like the absence of any message to send. If anything it sounds as though they took the brief for an ad (or perhaps a sales training manual), and then used it word for word as the script.

Telling people you’re unique means nothing. Telling people you’re superior means nothing. Showing what makes you special – without shouting to the rooftops that it’s what you’re trying to do – that is what makes for a compelling message.

“Shot on iPhone 6” did it. It made one feature – the camera – the hero, all while happily ceding the focus to the photographs, with no need for product shots. Simple, and confident.

But this new work sounds like a brand that is self-obsessed, but knows nothing about itself, other than that people think its cool and it wants to cling to that.

Get over yourself Apple. Don’t tell me how great you are. Show me.

Here are the ads.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

McVities Finally Goes Mad And It’s Fantastic

I’ve written about the McVities “Sweeet” ads by Grey before. In sceptical tones, frankly.

But they’ve won me over, basically by doubling down on the crazy. Forget kitsch kittens and owls, what this campaign needed was a rocket-propelled flying squirrel and some 80s synth. Fun times.

In all honesty this was exactly where the campaign needed to go. Full-throated is always more convincing than half-hearted. And this is a film that, silliness aside, feels a lot more engaged than the previous work.

After all, it’s a campaign to launch a breakfast biscuit. I’m not totally sure what a breakfast biscuit is. But telling me it’s a thing that gives you energy and enthusiasm at the start of day – or more accurately, showing me – is exactly what you need to do to sell the idea.

I think there’s a tendency with these sorts of ads to be a little too polished. And the truth is you don’t want too much polish with something that is supposed to be fun and a bit cheeky. You don’t want to be ‘nice’. You want to be interesting.

Nice may be inoffensive. But it doesn’t excite – and it doesn’t make you want to share the news.

Great stuff Grey. You had me at “rocket-propelled flying squirrel”.

Monday, 13 July 2015

PewDiePie Knows What’s Up

There’s been an inordinate amount of coverage in the past few days of PewDiePie, a YouTube celebrity gamer who is already annoying me solely because of all the red lines that are appearing across this article.

He’s Swedish. He’s young. He’s extremely successful at what he does.

He made $7.4 million last year. Some people are upset about that.

Understandably so. After all, who is this guy who makes millions by playing video games, by giving stupid reactions to stupid toys? Why can he make so much doing something so worthless? And where do I sign up?

Here’s the thing. PewDiePie makes a huge amount of money through his videos because people enjoy watching them. And because YouTube allows that monetisation to take place. There’s nothing cynical about those earnings. You know why?

Because he’s doing something that he loves. And we as a society value what he’s doing.

You could argue that society shouldn’t value his work. You could argue that he might be just in it for the money. But the reality is that there’s no way he would be so popular, and so successful, without having a real passion for his work.

It’s easy to dismiss those who become wealthy in unorthodox ways as being below our respect. That what they do lacks worth.

But one of the things we value most is entertainment. PewDiePie is providing entertainment for his audience, and selling ad space for YouTube while he does it. Whether or not you like his content, living in a free society means that you can’t control whose voices are worthy of money or respect.

I have no interest in watching PewDiePie’s videos. But his presence on the web is an encouraging reflection of the freedom people have these days, to make money doing the things that they love.

(No matter how stupid they might be.)

Oasis Gets To The Point

It’s a funny thing when being straightforward in your advertising seems like a novelty, but there we are. Fun new piece from The Corner London for Oasis in their outdoor and print advertising, with a headline that immediately elicits a chuckle.

“It’s summer. You’re thirsty. We have sales targets.”

It’s been said that the millennial generation is one that scorns indirect, obtuse advertising, in favour of more open sales pitches and clear calls to action.

(I have my doubts about any theory that claims that there’s some huge difference between generations, if nothing else because people have always claimed the same.)

Whether or not that idea holds up, this is a prime example of that kind of advertising. Clear, terse and appealing. It’s everything you want a quick sales pitch to be.

If nothing else it’s a clever little move to sneak in the words “You’re thirsty”. In weather like we’ve had for the last few days, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps because of the growing stigma against them, soft drinks ads often seem afraid to advocate for themselves. But once in a while it’s good to see an ad make fun of itself – and deliver an engaging message at the same time.