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!


Keeping it real

I do hope the new Sheila’s Wheels ads are successful for them. To me, they come under the ‘kitsch’ category – so bad, they’re good!

What’s more, they’ve recently s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d that long pink car to include real women, in pink spangly dresses, singing along with that catchy song.

I approve.

I might even get a quote from them, next time I renew my car insurance…


Too good to be true?

As a Christmas gift, Threshers (the off-licence chain) emailed a 40% off voucher to a selection of their suppliers.

Seems like a good idea.

But of course the recipients forwarded the discount details to all their friends.

Threshers website crashed with all the visitors trying to access the offer (they estimate half a million vouchers were printed), and their 2,000 stores were braced for a Christmas rush.

It could have been avoided if they’d simply added the words ‘limited offer’ to the voucher design.

Mind you, they received lots of media coverage as a result. And there is speculation that the whole thing was a marketing ploy – even at 40% off, they were not selling at a loss.