Ads that make my other half laugh (part 1)

Let’s call him Andy (because that’s his name).

Andy likes to rant at the TV – he watches news, political shows, anything down and depressing, and shouts at the screen when he sees or hears something he disagrees with. Which happens a lot.

So it’s quite unusual for him to burst out laughing during the ads.

It happens each time he sees the Domestos ad, with the animated germs in the toilet bowl squealing because they’ve just been squirted with bleach.

He loves the Barclays insurance ad, when the guy hits the indoor golf ball into the ‘hole’ and it rebounds to smash the boss’s plasma TV. In fact, Andy loves this ad so much, he even imitates the actions every time he sees it.

And he roars with laughter when he sees the VW ad with the show-room salesman wearing a stained shirt, because customers splatter their coffee all over him whenever he tells them the (unbelievably low) price.

All these ads have something in common. A touch of surprise, of slapstick humour.

I must admit, they do nothing for me!

Just goes to show, it takes all sorts…


Feeling Tyred

I HATE the Michelin Man!

He’s called Bibendum, and is made of tyres. I used to have nightmares about him when I was a kid, looming in front of me then receding into the distance.

Is it just me?

Hmm, probably.


What’s in a name?

I asked for a Marathon bar at the gym last night (I know, I know, what’s the point of a workout if you follow it with chocolate?!).

The girl replied: “Do you mean Snickers?”

She was right.

I knew the name had changed but forgot what it had changed to!

I believe it changed so the packaging could be used across Europe, and the original name was already in use by someone else or had another meaning.

Similarly, Jif changed to Cif because so many countries couldn’t pronounce the J.

And Immac – the hair remover – changed to Veet (sounds like ‘vite’, the French for ‘quick’).

Getting the name right in your marketing is critical. I am currently very annoyed with Virgin Media, because they insist on billing my broadband to ‘Jackie Brown’ even though I’ve told them several times and via several methods of communication that my name is not Brown, it has never been Brown, and is never likely to be Brown!

What gets worse is that they’ve obviously sold their mailing list to MBNA, because I’m now receiving direct mail letters offering a credit card to Mrs Brown at my address.

Who do I have to sleep with for them to get my name right?


Tapping in to the zeitgeist

There’s a car ad currently using the line: “When was the last time…you just went for a drive?”

A nice thought.

But I can’t help wondering whether it’s wise these days, to encourage unnecessary journeys.

What about the carbon footprint?

Perhaps they’ve missed the boat with this one.


3 things a man should never see a woman do

In my opinion, there are certain things a man should never see a woman do (in order to keep the romance alive).

1. Using the toilet.

2. Wearing pop socks.

3. Doing any kind of depilation – whether plucking, shaving, creaming or waxing.

So I’m not sure about the new Veet adverts.

We see the girl with one creamy strip on her shin (and then with two creamy ‘footless socks’ in the shower).

Very unattrative. But also very unrealistic.

She’s clearly got no hair on her legs to start with, because we don’t see the cream going grey as it melts those curly strands, or when it gets scraped off in lines with that flat plastic spoon they provide, or when her nose turns up at the smell of singeing…

We do see her bad acting as she poses on the bed, so thrilled she is with her smooth legs.

Oh how I wish it were fashionable for women to be hairy!


The greatest marketing disasters of all time

About 3 years ago, Hoover offered 2 free flights in return for spending £100 on one of their products. They had no idea how many people would take up the offer, and it ended up costing them £48m.

Read the BBC story

2 years ago, the Daily Express offered a cruise for £10. Again, it was massively oversubscribed, and many people were disappointed.

View the report on BBC’s Working Lunch programme

And last year Threshers’ email discount backfired on them.

I wrote about it here.

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Would you respond to this ad?

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. small wages. bitter cold. long hours of complete darkness. constant danger. safe return doubtful. honour and recognition in the event of success.”

Advert placed by Ernest Shackleton for the 1914 Antarctic Expedition

“Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

1860 Pony Express ad in California


The value of research

I knew I wanted to be a writer from about the age of 14. At that age, adults are always asking: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a writer,” I told them.

One well-meaning neighbour challenged me: “Then why don’t you enter this writing competition?”

It was about the time the French and Belgian Congo was changing to Zaire (since then it’s more-or-less changed back again). And she gave me the competition entry details together with a copy of the National Geographic magazine about the area.

I read the magazine, incorporated some of the detail into my story, and won the competition. The whole experience taught me the value of research. And now, the more background information I have about a company – its products and services, clients and customers – the better writing job I can do for them.

But what has all this to do with advertising?

Well, there is a story in Alistair Crompton’s book ‘The Craft of Copywriting’ that says the MD of Rolls Royce was presented with a headline: “The loudest noise in this car is the clock.” He replied, “Hmm, must do something about that clock.” But the copywriter was only able to write that line because he sat in the car, drove it around, and researched it properly.

I’d love to do such thorough research for my new travel agent client – shame he doesn’t agree!


Love it or hate it? (Part 1)

Certain brands are brave enough to admit that some people don’t like the product.

Such as the Marmite ad, where the boy gets the girl on the sofa, she sneaks a bite of a Marmite sandwich, and he’s repelled when he tries to snog her.

It was once described in Campaign as ‘penis breath’.

But I still like Marmite!