23 Nov

Don’t emulate adland

It’s started again.

I thought everything had settled down once more, and we were free of such waffle (at least until after Christmas), but, alas, no.

What am I on about? Bizarre endlines / straplines for large brands, which just mean nothing to your average member of the public, or certainly mean nothing outside of the world of advertising.

In the last week, I’ve heard/seen:

Wonga – ‘Credit for the real world’
(As opposed to… credit for Narnia? Credit for Mordor?)

Gillette – ‘Shaving reinvented’
(Is there a new way of shaving that doesn’t involve the removal of hair from the face with some kind of bladed article?)

Audi (the new A4) – ‘Experience progress’
(To my mind, you experience progress during the process of doing/watching something. Does this mean that Audi buyers are being invited to stand by the production line while their car is being made?)

Yes, I’m being flippant: if you listen to the Wonga ads, you’ll hear them talking about how they allow for late payments now i.e they know things ‘crop up’ in people’s lives, hence ‘credit for the real world’… but a strapline is a takeaway thought – it should work on its own, away from the ads (someone might not have seen/heard those ads. They might’ve just picked up a Wonga leaflet).
Unfortunately, away from the ads, ‘credit for the real world’ means precisely sod all.

It’s the same with Gillette’s ‘shaving reinvented’: there’s a whole ad about new blades, and all singing all dancing features… but it’s still just selling a razor, so shaving hasn’t been ‘reinvented’ in the slightest – you’re just being sold a slightly different product.

The worst part, for me, is imagining someone inside an agency (or maybe the client themselves) going: ‘yup, that works… people will buy into that – shaving reinvented’.

Rather than thinking about things that people would actually say, the focus is on coming up with a ‘clever’ phrase… which just ends up sounding addy, phoney, and the type of thing an Apprentice candidate would say on one of the sales tasks; ‘Yeah, this car .. you’ve gotta take it for a test drive. Seriously – experience progress!’ … ‘No, we’re not just another loan company… this is credit for the real world’.

And there’s actually a worse part than that which I previously called ‘the worst part’: I hear smaller companies trying to emulate what they hear from adland, thinking that they sound clever and ‘just like the adverts’.

I had a chat with a client – a small, but growing, franchise – who wanted to use the phrase ‘quality delivered’.
I had to sit down and, without appearing to piddle on his parade, ask why he thought that was a good line: what does it mean? What does he think customers will think it means? What aspect of his business does he think it refers to? ‘Quality’ is an abstract noun – can it be ‘delivered’? Could any other company (in his industry) simply take the same line and stick it next to their logo? So… does it really say anything specific about him, his business, and why I – as a customer – should go to his company over any of his competitors?

In the end, he admitted that he just thought it was ‘quick’ and ‘sounded smart’.

Just like major sports stars have a responsibility to behave in a certain way, as their young fans mimic them, I reckon big brands / ad agencies should have a responsibility: stop churning out addy waffle that just doesn’t mean anything.

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