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Advertising campaigns that shouldn't work but apparently do
Posted on Wednesday, June 11 2008 @ 15:27:21 PST

In a regular (non) working day one could expect to encounter all sorts of advertisements, adverts if you will. They're on the radio, on the side of buses, in newspapers, on billboards, on the internet and of course on the television. Spend an hour or so plugged into the vast entertainment network that passes for Western 'culture' these days and you'll come into contact with all sorts of adverts. Some of these actually serve their purpose; you know, making us want to buy the product being advertised, but most are peculiar mixes of various themes either totally unconnected to the product or linked by a thread so tenuous it threatens to snap in two should anyone actually put any thought into it. Companies have had to get more inventive with their adverts as consumers have become more savvy. Gone are the days when a simple "Hey! Hey, you. Buy our product, it's really good!" would suffice, instead advertisers need to truly big up their product or distract the customer from any degree of suck their product may have by presenting another theme in much larger quantities. Kind of like putting an anti-worm pill for your dog inside a steak pie. Adverts change but these themes generally stay the same:

Ill advised comedy

One example is sticking in my mind here, it's for some sort of painkiller; paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin, something like that but with the added bonus of giving the sensation of a massage. A man in an office is rubbing his neck and is advised by an attractive colleague that he needs a massage. Cut to this guy naked but for a pair of boxer shorts (no stains visible) laying on the desk when she plonks the advertised product down next to him. There are plenty of these types of adverts knocking about but most of the time the comedy is mixed with other things, like sex.

Sex appeal... or appeals to sex

This is probably the most prominent theme ever and I'm not just talking about in the advertising world. Even the example above had a reference to sex, well if you believe that stuff about knocking shops masquerading as massage parlours anyway. Even inherently unsexy items often use natural horniness as a way to sell. The advert for Mazdas features attractive people dancing and jumping as the car drives up and down an unusual shifting background, the Rustlers advert shows what appears to be a conventionally attractive woman in a coat only conventional for a public flasher roaming Central Park magically convert into a steaming sexpot lounging sexfully wearing underwear available from the likes of Ann Summers on the spinning sofa intended to emulate a room sized microwave. Moreover I don't think I've ever seen an advert for a cologne or perfume that didn't feature either an incredibly attractive woman in skimpy attire or an attractive guy in trousers only. If you're lucky the sexiness of the advert will be incorporated into the product in some way, if you're unlucky (and we're usually unlucky) then the product will be tacked on as an after thought once the bouncy models finish prancing... actually that's not so unlucky at all is it? The worst for this is Lynx (like Axe for those of you across the pond). The geniuses at Lynx HQ decided way back when that their product should be targeted towards adolescents and young adult males and as any advertiser can tell you: appeal to your audience. So what do adolescent and young adult males crave most? Poon, tang and getting their end away. And so began a lengthy advertising campaign which can basically be summed up as "spray this on your junk and you'll have your pick of these lovelies" *present lovelies in provocative poses*. This strategy has apparently been successful since the company is still going strong despite most of its wares being about as effective at preventing excess perspiration as this condom would be at preventing the transmission of an STD and carrying completely unappealing names such as 'Africa' (nothing says "suck on this, baby" quite like the smell of oppression and apartheid). Even so, I have to wonder about the merits of an advert depicting a man simultaneously becoming a chocolate effigy of himself and irresistible to all manner of fantastic women as he runs around town. I'd never complain about getting another chance to catch a glimpse of those wonderful ladies but I must lament how inaccurate the advert actually is.

Completely unrelated to the product in question

I'm thinking of a water advert here. It features Brains from Thunderbirds dancing for a couple of minutes. Only at the very end of the advert is the product being advertised actually mentioned and this idea is used all too frequently. Sure occasionally it's fun to guess what the hell an advert is getting at but it has to be pulled off pretty well to justify the screen time used to do nothing but allow the director of the piece to display his hitherto unused creativity in a totally irrelevant way.

This blog has been overwhelmingly critical of these sorts of adverts but at least they have the potential to be entertaining even if most don't pull it off. If the alternative is the sort of fare insurance companies usually deliver I'd prefer running the risk of viewing an enjoyable advert to having to watch a D list celebrity threaten financial destitution if I don't buy their insurance.

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