Wednesday, 27 April 2016

I Am Ready For More Beauty Ads Like This One

(“Idle Advertising: Beating You Over The Head With A Joke Since 2015.”)

I’m often a little hesitant to jump into discussing ads with an expressly different demographic to my own. Maybe I’ll like it for the wrong reasons – or maybe I’ll dislike it for the wrong reasons.

And with that caveat in place, here’s an absolutely fantastic ad, "Ready For More", for Boots No.7 by Mother London.

“Ready For More.” Simple. Unpretentious. Most importantly, an easily understood message. You age, and you keep going, because you’re still thirsty for success, even when tempered with experience. In the spotlight is Alessandra Ferri, age 52 – and Alessandra Ferri, age 19, as a hologram. The interplay between the past and present makes for a gorgeous, engaging film, with an empowering message that blends the nostalgic with the forward-facing. In fact I can’t say it more clearly than Ferri herself:

“I’m proud of what I’ve done and who I was when I was younger, but I’m also proud of what I’m doing now and who I am now.”

And yes, Boots’ anti-ageing products are a part of enabling that future. It’s not an aggressive push, but there’s a clear brand and product logic and a positive message behind it. Think “Like A Girl” but a bit more subtle.

Visually and musically it’s just stunning. The movement, the contrasting styles, the passion and the movement of the music – it’s all beautifully put together. The little moments – the younger Ferri looking to the older, their coming together at the end – they feel genuinely emotional. They feel full of life.

And with no script, Ferri’s personality and strength shine through far stronger than if she were spouting your usual beauty ad lines. As is pretty well established at this point, I’m a sucker for a stripped down, clean piece of short, strong copy.

(No extraneous words, no blathering on and on with unnecessary text and freewheeling that adds nothing to the conversation and drags you on with increasing bewilderment and boredom. No sir. I hate that.)

It’s a bold move to directly contrast the older and younger versions of a woman in an ad, bringing them in sharp relief while selling a product that is explicitly supposed to “hide away” the imperfections that age brings. Done poorly and it comes as cynical, a guilt-laden ploy to shame women into covering up their age/their weaknesses/the fact that they don’t have a penis (quelle horreur).

But this spot is all the better for that contrast of young and old.

Ferri does certainly looks older. She looks her age; she looks worn and unvarnished.

By god she looks powerful though. I wouldn’t want to go toe to toe with her.

(Not least because I hear ballerinas basically have claws on their feet. They are much like beautiful, beautiful eagles in that regard.)

It's a little-known fact that Natalie Portman prepared for her role in Black Swan by spending six months catching rabbits up in the Rocky Mountains.
Her younger self is beautiful and talented. But her present self has the confidence, the authority and the self-possession of a queen. The message? That growing up does mean ageing – of course – but ageing doesn’t mean you take a step back. You keep moving forward, like Alessandra Ferri.

That is the power of this ad.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Asda: Every Little Helps

This one isn’t so much about advertising. It’s more about how sometimes, the best PR happens when you simply create an environment for simple, good deeds.

(Yes, apparently doing nice things can make people think that you’re nice. I also recently heard that the Pope is a practising Catholic.)

But the story I want to talk about is this one – an Asda store manager in Manchester taking a very small, but powerful decision to introduce a “quiet hour” for shoppers, and especially those who struggle with loud, busy places due to autism.

The screens go off.

The escalators halt.

Voices are kept to a minimum.

It’s a simple but powerful gesture.

And no, it isn’t earth-shattering. It’s certainly not the basis for a mass media campaign, and it can’t be. But there’s something simple, identifiable and attractive about a shop that takes a little step to help even just a little part of their community that feels underserved.

More interesting, more eye-catching, and more memorable as a brand offering than your standard bland slogan.

And there’s another point you can make about the “quiet hour”. We always assume supermarkets have to be brand-consistent, blaring music, jauntily tuned and brightly coloured behemoths. But there’s something to be said for stripping back the sound and fury, for subtracting rather than adding to the noise.

Something to think about. Possibly something for a future article.

But for now – time to shut up.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

What Goes Unsaid

Here’s a good, simple TV spot for Innocence in Danger, from ROSAPARK, a Parisian ad firm. It’s about incest and child abuse, so this article may be slightly joke-light compared to normal.

What makes this one powerful is as much by what it doesn’t say as what it does. It’s all there visually, the father, the bedtime story, the sleeping child – and the creeping implication. It opens with familial bliss. And then it twists the familial bliss of the opening like a knife.

Words don’t get in the way of the message, which is important. Often charity appeals and PSAs can get overloaded with facts and figures and words. Sometimes that’s OK. But in this context, and with a message this important and unsettling, the simplicity of the message makes it far more potent.

A wordless implication, done right, can catch your attention better than any clever combination of words.

It’s especially relevant here because child abuse amongst family members is far too common, and far too often ignored or dismissed. The estimated number of victims of incest, just within France, is 4 million. Which is just fucking horrifying, frankly. So if nothing else, that scale of the problem makes bringing it to everyone’s attention all the more important.

I feel uncomfortable. Watching it, talking about it, sharing it.

But that’s exactly why something like this should be shared. And it’s what makes it an effective piece of work.

So watch, talk about it, and share it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

No I Don't Want Your English Wine

Which is better, French wine or English?

A lot of people think that French wine is good. And it is, it’s fantastic and debonair and classy as shit.

(Unlike that sentence perhaps.)

French wine is what people think of when they think of great wine. I mean hell, French wine is what people think of when they think of wine in general. They’re synonymous. Interchangeable. French wine is the wine that you want.

And the pinnacle of French wine’s class and sophistication is held by that French fizzy wine we call champagne.

Which is why it’s an interesting truth that studies find that many people prefer English “champagne” to the Gallic original, in blind taste tests.

That doesn’t make sense. You can’t trust English people with anything gourmet, let alone top quality wine.

(Yes that is a bit rich coming from the land of deep-fried Mars Bars. Dealwivit.)

It makes so little sense that, even knowing this fact, I still know that French wine is better.

Because perceptions of a brand don’t have to have anything to do with reality.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a fantastic current example of this as well. Trump projects certain qualities. Tough on immigration. Standing up for the little guy. No nonsense.

Never mind that Trump has happily employed illegal immigrants, stomped on any little guy he can find, and quite clearly built an entire career on bullshit.

(There’s an entire series of articles I could write on the glory and horror that is the Trump campaign and its wrecking-ball impact on the US presidential election, but I really don’t know if I can be arsed. Being a politics student can do that to you.)

But Trump is an example of the negative side of this phenomenon. If nothing else because a presidential election is rather more important than the bottle of wine in your cupboard.

(You know, until you get home from work and you reall need a drink because Janice has been in your ear all day about Bruce from finance. Fucking Janice.)

The point is that perceptions don’t have to be the same as fact, at least when what you’re selling is an experience. A product should do what it’s supposed to. But if it’s a wine or a painting, or even a child’s toy, it’s not about just what it does. It’s about how it makes you feel. It’s about the imagination and the satisfaction and the idea of the product.

In the least cynical way possible, it’s worth remembering that the product and the brand don’t have to be tied too tightly together. Because often people value what they can believe of the product and a brand as much as what can physically get from it.

A brand may be intangible. But so is value itself. Value is what you make of it.

So get out of here with your English wine. I want my wine pretentious, poetic, and French.