Blowing in The Wind

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Simply innovative.

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Harvey Nichols summer sale ad with models who wet themselves

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Harvey Nichols pushes summer sale with incontinent models

Advertising never fails to surprise.

Often as a result of marketing and advertising professionals desire to be “different”.

Sometimes with ground breaking results, from brave, bold insightful clients partnering with strategically driven, experienced creatives.

And sometimes quite the opposite, as we see in the campaign from Harvey Nichols.

I believe a lot of this desire to be different is too introspective. Does it really put the consumer first and show any true insight about who they are selling to and how best they should do it?

I imagine (totally cynically of course), the process to be something along the lines of… client and agency discuss the consumers as “irrational, hand-bag wielding crazies” at the prospect of the sale at Harvey Nichols.

A bed-head, 30 something year old creative in ripped jeans and sullen attitude suggests that the poor punter might even “wet themselves” at the prospect of a bargain in the hallowed halls of Harveys!

Amidst the giggles and guffaw the idea becomes “irreverent” and “break-through” and here is the result. An actual campaign (a lot of direct mail money was spent on this…), around consumers wetting themselves in anticipation of the sale.

Julia Bowe, group press and marketing director, at Harvey Nichols said: “In the past we’ve experienced everything from customers camping outside the store overnight to be at the front of the queue, to fierce tussles between over-zealous bargain-hunters on the shop floor.

“In humorous reaction to the often-irrational excitement sale time engenders, we have developed this campaign to capture this near-fanatical spirit.”

Jeremy Craigen, executive creative director at DDB UK, said: “I wet myself when I saw this idea. That says it all really.”

It certainly does. Both client and agency are pretty far removed from their consumer.

The controversial campaign comes after the company narrowly avoided a ban from the Advertising Standards Authority for its notorious “Walk of Shame” advert, which ran on TV last December. A deeply disturbing effort at advertising.

This is a symptom of the “anything goes” prevailing advertising attitude. Or it might be more accurate to say “anything can be sold” attitude with respect to the client…

This campaign, although claiming to be tongue-in-cheek, (which has become the most often used term for poor taste in a tepid idea), mocks the consumer and devalues a premium brand.

What does the person in the street think? Particularly the aspirationally premium target? I doubt many share the same sense of irreverent humour about their excitement in the sale or relate to the image and see themselves as losing bowel control for the chance to grab a bargain. Advertising can no longer hide from their consumers who in this case have taken to twitter on receipt of the flyers with the images as reported:

  • One user said: “Really, Harvey Nicks? Really? They’re certainly pushing the boundaries.”
  • Another woman tweeted: “That absolutely does not make me the slightest bit inclined to shop there!”
  • And another wrote: “We received this in the post, hideous! It makes me think of their sale goods as being soiled :(”, while one poster merely said: “Oh how the mighty have fallen!”

This campaign suggests the client doesn’t exactly put their punter on a pedestal in terms of premium perceptions, or even understand who their customer is?

I tend to think these ideas are lazy and exist in the absence of any strategically inspired creative idea that is truly relevant, interesting and motivating to the punter and potentially drives sales.

A lot of the PR generated by the campaign tends to agree. The “accident” is all Harvey Nichols, not their consumer’s…

Woolworth’s Everyday Rewards ad – the simple talking green pea

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Woolworth’s is the brand leader.

Woolworth’s prices, range and customer experience are far superior to Coles in my view as a shopper. But Coles are doing a fine job at challenging that view.

Both brands battle it out with big budget media spend. Coles have stuck to a consistent brand formula using personalities and price to great effect (…even though they are unlikely to win any creative awards). The new my5 proposition is well sold by Dawn. As Simon McDowell, Coles Marketing Director has stated in adnews: “Who are we trying to appeal to? Are we trying to appeal to 14 million bodies who shop at Coles every week, or are we trying to appeal to the advertising industry? You can guess what my answer is. We’re very clear on our brand and what it stands for. We’re very clear on our personality.” Nice to see an unapologetic marketing response.

Woolworths “the fresh food people” have a new agency and have recently embarked on a couple of pretty different campaigns – “Select” as posted earlier and this one for their equivalent of Coles “Flybuys”. Neither Woolworth’s campaign contributes directly to the core proposition of “fresh food”. This is done by Advertorial promos. Price seems to be tackled through short lead press ads.

The potential risk is that Woolworth’s looks like a challenger brand, following Coles and lacking consistency and a core proposition.

Further to which Coles are on an aggressive PR offensive as a Coles representative has said:

“Woolworths are playing catch-up again but what they have launched is a hastily pulled together program which does nothing for their customers. Their ‘extra special’ rewards program has simply taken the hundreds of promotions that they would have been running for all their customers anyway and made them exclusive to Everyday Rewards Customers. That’s why they were able to respond to my5 so quickly and it explains why they have not included any fresh items including fruit and veg, home brand milk and meat (these items are predominantly private label and so they can’t get them supplier funded)…”

Tough talk.

This ad feels like a tactical effort before the strategic tour de force we all expect from Droga who are cutting new ground in many categories with outstanding creative.

The simplicity of the my5 Coles proposition is winning consumers – 5 regular buys registered and get a discount. The Woolworth’s Everyday rewards response is actually simpler and stronger on paper, but falls short as it is pitched as a response to the other guys. It even references (and therefore credits) the competition’s proposition.

I think that the Coles guys are getting to the Woolies guys…as McDowell concluded: “We take our brand and our business seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are trying to sell and serve with personality, to make ourselves warm and approachable.” I agree, the personality that matches the target (not necessarily all of the creative community) is there. Interesting use of “warm and approachable” versus Woolworth’s Select ads.

A great marketing battle in the making and I look forward to the next salvo from Woolworth’s and Droga as the strategy comes into full swing.