U by Kotex leakage freakage

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Kimberley Clark are going out of their way to push the problem.

It might be “leakage” or it could be the risk of attracting dogs by virtue of an unclean bum (ref Kleenex Cottonelle).

This latest effort is confronting women with what we are told is a common problem. The solution is U by Kotex.

In both cases the company tackles the problem with clear product solutions.

Both approaches and that of Carefree raise an interesting question. Do consumers respond better to direct, descriptive advertising and what level of directness is more effective? The word “vagina” has recently been a subject of many complaints regarding the advertising campaign for Carefree Actifresh.

It’s interesting to ask if this approach researches well with all women / consumers? The industry likes to trumpet from on high and say we MUST change the consumer – “better out than in!” and remove ourselves from these suppressed notions of discrete advertising…? A vocal minority applaud the use of language that can make mums and dads cringe into their sofa. “It’s a vaginal discharge so lets herald it from on high!”. I’m not so sure.

There is a subtle balance between being direct and being overtly confronting to women and families in their own living rooms. U, which is firmly youth targeted, gets it right. We aren’t shocked into awareness of the problem and efficacy of the solution, we don’t hear language that is too confronting and we are indirectly very aware of the problem without being told that it is a “vaginal discharge”…territory other brands would prefer to own.

At the end of the day it is about understanding the audience not just the user and when it is the mass medium of TV the family audience matters. This is why it is an interesting topic for discussion when used in mass market media (rather than more directly targeted communication).

Without being overly conservative I sincerely hope that brands don’t continue to reach for stand-out notoriety by the use of the lowest creative common denominators in overtly describing what many real people consider to be discrete categories.

The true creative challenge is to communicate the problem and benefit / solution without the reliance on the literal descriptions and language.

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New Qantas TV ad – “you’re the reason we fly”

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2007 to present

After much anticipation the new Qantas campaign has launched.

The ad features the new tagline “You’re the reason we fly” with a Daniel Johns track, titled “Atlas”. Somewhat put in the shade by the latest Telstra “Land Down Under” track. The ad also has a new logo, a compilation of 22,000 Australian faces which make up the flying kangaroo.

It’s interesting that the campaign has dropped the famous song “I still call Australia Home” and has also moved away from iconic Australian images.

Featuring real people is a “see-through” strategy to ensure that “real” people feel that this is their airline (and that’s the reason they fly…). It hopes to be relevant to them and that they will relate to it. As an iconic national carrier, that has arguably lost it’s way, this is quite a risk. The notional change from “Australia’s” to “Australian‘s” airline indicated that this was coming.

The question is what does the ad do to either inspire people afresh or change attitudes? And there is a bit of a negative mountain to climb in many travelers minds both perceived (press negativity) and experienced (the entertainment isn’t working, it’s late again etc)

Emotionally it engages through the everyday people it hopes to be relevant to. Some nice shots and as you would expect beautifully produced. The launch campaign is customer-focused, featuring Australian’s from the coast, the cities and the country, a destination-based TVC will follow.

Unfortunately the depiction of everyday people is somewhat generic. The “reasons to believe” or think differently about the carrier are absent.

I believe advertising must have a creative message that sells (really!). I’m not sure what I am asked to buy in this ad or what attitude I am expected to change? In other words it is generic.

The previous ad famously became an anthem for all that was great about Australia (and delivered by Qantas).

This seems to lack any proprietary backbone in terms of what is unique about Qantas. Owning the place was one thing that resonated as it is a national carrier going to all parts of the country (less true these days). Owning the people is quite a different proposition that relies on delivering superb service which judging from on-line comments is somewhat lacking of late.

In comparison to the Virgin ad which stressed a fast pace and determined approach to service (…showing staff, service and boasting a lot of planes no less!), this ad falls short on delivering a message that you can grab hold of and believe in. At this stage in the brand journey, people need a bit more substance to believe in.

The compilation logo treatment has a lot more style than substance and is perhaps too wrapped up in the strategy of “Australian’s” versus a clear depiction of the logo, particularly when there are no other clear brand references in the ad – I believe that you can never assume that everyone seeing it knows who it is for.

I completely get where the ad is trying to position the brand, I’m just not sure it is as convincing as it needs to be.

As a recent article put it the new generation of traveller has no emotional attachment to Qantas and its wider significance to the country, also suggesting that:

Qantas is coming home to an empty house, with a sign pinned to the fridge saying, “Your chicken dinner – or beef dinner if we cannot fulfil your first choice – is in the dog” and an ever-growing stack of bills to pay.

A lot of work to be done to change hearts and minds.

Qantas has said that the TVCs are designed to tug on the “heart strings” and to “re-engage emotionally with consumers”.

The final stage of the campaign, which Qantas has labelled the ‘prove’ segment, will make up the lions-share of the rebrand efforts.

Is this another example of the consumer being gently introduced into the sell via a soft emotionally charged entrée? It seems to be a trend amongst bigger budget brands to “engage” emotionally first then sell second with proof points (Commonwealth Bank, Virgin Mobile, Woolworth’s etc).

The cynical might suggest this could be a clever sales tactic by agencies. But I think it is flawed to assume that consumers are interested enough to stay with brands through these different phases (and connect them). The better option is surely to make a single ad (or connected campaign) which can receive significant weight and generate the desired impact emotionally AND rationally (Hyundai, Cannon, The Guardian etc)

The team at Qantas are skilled marketeers with broad budgets and I hope that the rational reasons to fly with them (the proof) will be delivered in the next ad against this emotionally staged backdrop of relating to everyday people.

The problem with this execution is a basic one – marketing 101 really:

“what is actually proprietary and unique about this ad”?

The answer is very little. Added to which, the ‘You’re The Reason We Fly‘ tagline is exactly the same wording used by the now-defunct Carnival Airlines in the USA.

As reported in AdNews, creative leaders have not suggested Qantas plagiarised the positioning, they have chastised the company for using a “generic” statement that could have been used before, and for “not doing their homework”.

McCann executive creative director John Mescall told AdNews: “It’s not surprising this has happened because it is such a generic motherhood statement. This is laziness not plagiarism.

A lazy, generic approach to advertising and the assumption that consumers will be interested enough in the emotional “art” to act or change opinions, shows a lack of insight into the consumer, the category and a lack of belief in the brand’s selling points (which are absent).

Ultimately everyday people will judge this work versus the previous iconic work and more importantly, they will judge the airline by the delivery of a decent service in a highly competitive market.

Unfortunately, I think that this work will fly by them relatively unnoticed.

Carefree Actifresh – The “Vagina” Word TV ad

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Much of my recent postings have been around the subject of “taste”.

This is taste in terms of what advertising should and shouldn’t say and suggest around traditionally taboo subjects. As well as examples of poor taste propped up by the excuse of irreverence and tongue in cheek (Lynx being a shocker)

Some would argue that taste is a subjective measure of what we as individuals deem appropriate as advertising.

I think that the question of taste or advertising standards is more than that. We need to arbitrate in these matters on behalf of the mass market majority who are exposed to the advertising – particularly when it is on TV. Rather than crushing creativity, this should actually prompt more ingenious, imaginative solutions to communication.

The creative community can argue that we should break these taboos – use the word vagina when discussing feminine hygiene. Show explicit imagery to demonstrate problems (accidents / disease etc). Many might suggest that we are lessening the creative impact by embargoing these words and images.

At the risk of sounding conservative on creativity, I don’t agree.

I think that this ad is a beautifully produced ad. It captures the attention and the dialogue is relevant and motivating to the target. The last thing it needed was the seemingly gratuitous inclusion of the word vagina. I don’t think this inclusion adds anything to comprehension or awareness of the message. It just shocks the casual viewer, as in “did they just say that”?

Are we to imagine that the target didn’t get the message and needed to be alerted to it through hearing vagina in the monologue?

In the words of Johnson & Johnson:

“We have decided to take a bold approach in this campaign with the aim to tackle a subject which has always been taboo.”

I don’t think the language is going to make this a bold ad on a taboo subject.

There is a lot of debate on it at present. Daye Moffitt, brand strategy director at creative agency Moon, offered a female perspective.

“Personally, it makes me cringe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and I do think it is a good strategy. The shock tactic helps with getting young women to listen up – it gets their attention in a very loud marketplace.  It’s an effective and memorable ad, certainly.”

With the greatest respect to Daye, I think that cringe is the issue – imagine how parents with teenage boys respond when they hear it.

As anticipated the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau has received over 30 complaints since the ad first screened on Sunday evening. A spokesperson for the ASB said:

 “Most of the complaints are about the terminology that’s used and the nakedness of the woman,”

Interesting that the nudity got so much attention, suggesting how conservative our viewers really are.

The creative challenge reaches beyond the use of explicit or provocative language. And “vagina” can be considered as explicit language to many in the mass market living rooms.

Creativity needs to find new ways of reaching into the consciousness of viewers. Ways that don’t rely on gimmicks, tricks and controversy.

The ad is good, not great, and the inclusion of the word vagina merely serves to draw attention to the word not the problem or brand. Probably at the cringing discomfort of many women who would rather not shout it loud and proud from the living room floor.

These women are after all the target market and discretion in communication is perhaps more relevant and motivating than the vagina monologue.

Status Quo Coles TV ad – Prices are Down, Down, they’re staying down!

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Coles Supermarkets logo.

Every bit of me says I should lambast this work.

Here we have the legends (Grandfathers…) of Rock, the mighty Status Quo, reworking their 1975 hit, ‘Down, deeper and down’, to include Coles’ ‘Down, down, prices are down’.

Quo’s original track was the inspiration behind the supermarket’s grating, but memorable tune introduced last year.

But before I drift off into dismissive hyperbole about the demise of the once great ad industry, a few salient thoughts:

  1. There is a lot of tongue in cheek in this one.
  2. Quo were the inspiration for the tune anyway.
  3. The band seem to be having fun – no doubt acutely aware of the ease of making money from Coles.

The overall impression isn’t therefore that this is a credible Rock band selling out, it’s more a case of here are some ageing Rockers having a laugh at the expense of Coles.

At the same time it delivers the message and as a nod to the original tune is a bit of fun (if a bit of a cringe at the same time). This should appeal to a lot of the mass market and get the tune lazer etched into everyone’s subconscious.

Red guitars on sale in-store apparently.

Funny for a moment, but I only hope we don’t have to endure the joke too often on our screens!

Here are the boys doing their bit:

The best ad from Cannes – Guardian open journalism: “Three Little Pigs” TV ad – the Guardian

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Logo of the British newspaper The Guardian

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has a long history of great advertising.

The classic Points of View TV ad is one of the best.

This ad (even at 2 minutes) is my choice from Cannes, although it didn’t bring home the bacon in terms of awards…

It communicates a complicated message of the breadth of Guardian coverage through a brilliantly constructed creative examination of a story we all know. Entertaining, interesting, relevant and motivating by underpinning the credentials of a great paper that is still innovating in the digital world.

A very different perspective and very much what the Guardian brand stands for.

McCann Melbourne creative director Annie Price.

Price has urged Aussie marketers and agencies against treating people like “idiots”, and has held up the highly regarded ‘The Little Pigs’ campaign by BBH as an example of the type of advertising the local industry should be striving for.

She told AdNews: “There’s not much Australian advertising can’t learn from this stunning commercial.

“It’s intelligent. It’s entertaining. It’s beautifully produced and so gripping, it has you coming back for more and more. It really is storytelling at its finest. There’s no doubt who it’s for and you’re left feeling compelled to go and buy a paper.

“It’s the intelligence of the Guardian commercial that most impressed me.

“No denying we make some great ads in Oz.

“But sadly, Australian TV screens are still full of a disproportional amount of commercials that treat people like idiots. Ads that assume that we are sitting there on the edge of our seats, just waiting to be informed about toilet cleaner, muesli bars or moisturiser by a moronic presenter. It’s 1950s advertising without the lovely retro outfits and atomic burst laminate.

“Clients and agencies alike would do well to remember that consumers are getting their information from so many sources nowadays, TV is not king. For us to truly impact on someone’s life via TV, and make a real connection, we’d better be smart about it and we’d better not insult his or her intelligence.”

John Hegarty Bursts the Cannes Bubble – “Make the bloody work better”

I’ve glanced at the commentary coming from Cannes annual advertising shindig. A lot of local Australian reports have bemoaned the fact that local agencies haven’t swept the board with awards. In fact Australian agencies such as Clemengers seem to have done quite well?

It was therefore interesting to see John Hegarty who is founder and worldwide creative director of BBH, returning to the basics and telling the industry to pull it’s creative socks up in his speech at Cannes as reported in AdNews.

The great thing about John and his leadership of BBH is that he doesn’t change. His principles and practical approach to advertising remain basically the same, they just evolve with experience. I am biased having worked there, but it made a lasting impression as John was one of the best marketeers I ever met, as well as having countless creative credentials.

Despite the chagrin of many in advertising who are scratching their heads as to why awards and recognition aren’t flowing their way, John puts it simply:

“Make the bloody work better. We must be the only industry in the world that actually thinks you can succeed when the work’s getting worse. We don’t talk about this enough.

“Obviously Cannes is about this, but what are we doing about it, how are we changing the way we’re working to create better work.”

I think that this is outstanding for the fact that it is true, the fact that BBH have been at the forefront of creativity and that John has the guts to throw off the Emperors new clothes and look at the industry with fresh eyes as a respected veteran of the business.

Not to say that there isn’t great work out there. There just isn’t enough of it. There seems to be a lot of “lazy” advertising, dictated by the need to get the campaign on-air on-time. I’ve seen creativity rushed and ruined as a result of a notional deadline to get it on-air.

John went on to say that advertising needs to stimulate and solicit the right response in the consumer along the lines of:

“Wow, I want to have a conversation with these people’, as opposed to ‘I’m doing my best to ignore them and they’re doing their best to trip me up in some way or another’. Isn’t that awful, we’re an industry that tries to trick people into watching what we do, why isn’t it inspiring, so people want to watch it.”

The discussion about the effectiveness of introspective “teaser” campaigns (Commbank, Blackberry etc) falls into this bracket of trying to “trick” and entice people into guessing the campaign. This assumes that consumers can actually be bothered?

Advertisers being big (in spend terms…) with teasers and tricks, but not necessarily clever in terms of creatively attracting consumers, are then bemused as to why effectiveness awards allude them and their CMO’s are replaced every 18 months?

Consumers don’t like to be deceived or have to guess who or what is behind a campaign, even if advertisers think that this brings engagement. It is more likely to bring annoyance and antipathy towards the campaign and brand. Consumers are wise to it and the novelty has worn off.

Advertising is a tool to drive awareness, engagement and sales and should be judged on these parameters. Advertisers are at risk of talking to themselves and then wondering why no one is listening?

The truth is that advertisers are not making ads that are truly relevant, interesting and motivating and that reach a mass market quickly and efficiently with the message.

As John says the ads aren’t good enough. Many advertisers are seduced into making advertising for social engagement on-line and PR notoriety first. Whilst this is important in contributing to a campaign idea, it can’t replace the effectiveness of producing strategically sound mass market creative to impact consumers and change opinions into new behaviour (i.e. buying stuff).

What was the last TV ad (TV still reaches the most households), that made you say “I really want that” or “they look like a great company I want to hear more from” or “wow, that changes my opinion!”

Hopefully hearing this from John will provoke the industry into some positive thought and action.

His book lays it out pretty clearly and is boiled down to the basics of the two most important points to remember if you’re a creative:

• The truth is the most powerful strategy

• The power of irreverence

The truth of product propositions seems to be getting lost in the “art” of advertising. The same rules still apply. Great products and services with genuine unique selling points (product truths), creatively delivered to attract the attention of consumers – this is what still works and sells.

When it comes to handling a situation or tackling an idea, John couldn’t stress more the importance of these two aspects of truth and irreverence in his book. Ask yourself, what is it exactly you’re trying to do? You should always challenge the accepted norm. Of course, he highlighted the fact that when it comes to clients, you can’t always break prejudice, it’s all about how you make the limits they give you distinctive. A nice challenge to the traditional brief.

He follows up with the first of many interesting anecdotes, featuring one of the most influential creative minds in advertising, Bill Bernbach. After the Second World War, Germany’s economy was kaput and they were in desperate need of a boost. One of the key elements they had to offer was their cars and they needed to sell them badly. They decided to approach an American named Bill Bernbach to try to generate sales for the Volkwagen Beetle. Now here was a car which was completely unappealing and actually not all that good, but Bernbach saw an opportunity in advertising a key feature about it. It was small. In this world of everything getting bigger, and bigger meaning better, Bernbach identified that the beetle went against the grain, and instead of trying to hide from supposed disadvantage, he turned the spotlight onto it and came up with the now famous line: “Think small”…and as they say the rest is history.

I hope that John and his blunt appraisal drives clients and creatives to make history and produce the campaigns that the industry can be proud of and that the consumers deserve.

Woolworths Fresh Food People new ad – “Welcome to Australia’s Fresh Food People”.

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After much anticipation (in ad circles at least) Woolworths aired the new campaign from Droga in last nights high rating spots. Here is the corporate line:

“Today we embark on a new journey for our company. We have a proud history at Woolworths of bringing Australians outstanding fresh food and value. We are building on this and our new campaign marks the start of a new promise to our customers as ‘Australia’s Fresh Food People’.
“A new ad campaign, which commences tonight, features nine real Woolworths Fresh Food people. Our renewed focus on our people is testament to the faith we have that Woolworths’ people are our greatest asset.

“Coupled with that is our new theme song, which highlights the rhythm of the seasons and celebrates that every day, every week, every month of the year, Woolies people open the doors to our stores and bake the freshest bread, serve the freshest fruit and veg and the best quality Australian meat and seafood.

Interestingly the music, written by Frankie Carle‘s “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I Love You” has been used previously by Walmart. The track was re-recorded by Gossling (Helen Croome) in keeping with the original recording by Kitty Kallen with Lawrence Welk & His Champagne Orchestra and made famous by Betty Driver

In a nice twist, Woolworth’s have given you the chance to download for free on their website

The ad is about Woolies people and continues to push the “Fresh Food” promise via these people. I really like the simple, but effective introduction of the word “Australia’s”. Home grown provenance is a big motivator (…if at the right price!)

Many analysts were expecting a bigger leap forward from the new agency, but this is a mega-brand making it’s move and nothing is done without careful consideration. The tone of these ads brings a freshness that has been lacking and does differentiate from Coles celeb advocacy approach.

People are important, but product and prices are dominating the supermarket wars at present, which Coles are perceived as winning through delivery of this message with strong personalities in the Curtis and Dawn ad that resonates well with the viewer.

This ad delivers “year round” love of Woolies by Woolies fresh food people. It demonstrates what we assume are real employees and suppliers who love Woolies. But why should we love Woolies?

It is an expensive looking and beautifully produced piece of work. Watchability is right up there and I actually believe that these people are who they claim to be, which is important in advocate advertising. But is it effective advertising in building loyalty?

The question as to why consumers would love Woolies remains. Seeing people at work in farms, fields and stores might not be enough to give people reasons why Woolies is really the “freshest” in the cut throat world of battling Coles.

Fresh Food People needs qualification since Coles came into the argument. The ad is relevant, certainly interesting, but the motivation for a consumer to believe the Fresh Food promise and why this if different to Coles is the key deliverable.

Assuming people will click into the website for more answers is a big assumption – on-line is the domain of range and pricing (as shown in the great Woolies app). Without this step, there is no qualification to the promise?

Here is an example of what people see when they click – Malcolm the farmer talking about running and potatoes. There is actually some motivating news in there, but should this be the main ad (apparently 12 ads will run so it might well be)? :

Hopefully the campaign develops with rational product and price proof points, still delivered in this strong emotive style to entice the shoppers – perhaps less sexy advertising, but potentially more motivating in today’s climate.

A couple of other interesting points to note are the subtle re-brand (Woolworths moves from red to green). And as reported in Mumbrella, Woolworths will remove walls to behind-the-scenes areas of its stores so that customers will be able to see bakers and butchers in action. The brand will also refit stores with better lighting and address checkout queues. (My local Woolies did this 3 weeks ago by moving the stacked special offers from in front of the tills –  and it is still talked about in hushed tones down the aisles…!)

Great advertising engages and entertains, but ultimately needs to sell to us by delivering reasons to believe in the brand promise and motivate us to buy and remain loyal.

Hopefully this campaign will deliver the rational reasons, as well as the feel-good fresh food people.