May 10, 2012

Ads About Nothing

Here at Ad Contrarian world headquarters we have a little 2-word commandment: Be specific.

You see, we think that "1,000 songs in your pocket" is a better promise than "world-class MP3 player."

We think that "15 minutes can save you 15%" is more motivating than "get huge savings."

We think "$5 Footlong" is a better idea than "really cheap and really big."

We believe in being specific.

As usual, this precept runs counter to contemporary marketing thinking. Today's busy marketing windbag is too lazy to bother with specifics. He doesn't want one campaign that is specific to, say, the UK and another that is specific to China. He doesn't really care that in one culture yogurt is a dessert and in another it's an ingredient. Don't bother him with the idea that the world and its people are filled with a million little subtleties. It's too much darn work.

He wants globularity. He wants to do one big thing and run it everywhere. That way, he doesn't have to think too much or strain too hard.

The upshot of this is that we get "global" ad campaigns that are about everything in general and nothing in particular.

Just have a look at Pepsi's new global ad effort that we picked on here the other day (picking on Pepsi is not just a hobby, it's a lifestyle.) It stars two actors who are not-quite-Hispanic, not-quite-Anglo, not-quite-Mediterranean, and not-quite-Middle-Eastern. They are in places that are not-quite-anywhere, doing stuff that is not-quite-anything.

It is a monument to non-specific globularity.

So what if there's no evidence that "global" campaigns are any more effective than any other campaigns? So what if there's mountains of evidence that specifics are more motivating than generalities? This is a new age and being global is, like, totally awesome.

Being everything to everyone, everywhere is not strategy. It is absence of strategy.

"The essence of strategy is sacrifice." David Ogilvy said that.  

"When you make ads about everything, you make ads about nothing." I said that.

Apologies... fabulous new commenting software still isn't working. On the other hand, it's been nice not being called an idiot for a couple of days.


Rob Mortimer said...

1000 songs in your pocket was genius. Instant understanding.

HSBC is for me a great example of how to do a global campaign for a big corporation. An idea and core thought that has relevance in most places, but always executed in a way that avoids blandness, focusing on the strengths of the variety of it's audience, with a genuinely nice tone too.

Darren Coleman, Wavelength Marketing UK said...

Great post guys. Short, simple and "specific". Love the Ogilvy quote. All marketing, not just advertising, is about choice. "You can't be all things...." We see this a lot with our clients and think it boils down to lack of customer insight, confidence and cash. Laziness may be part of the equation but for big brands economies of scale is key. This drives their decision. I understand aspects of their logic but whay throw good money after bad?