Ad agencies have it tough mostly when it comes to products they have to advertise. Most brands don’t have a real, significant competitive edge. Even if there is a genuine product differentiation, the window of opportunity to capitalise on it is limited as competing brands can offer the same or better fast enough. The task to create compelling, unique advertising is even more tough for ‘everyday’ categories where product parity is common – such as toothpaste, detergent, beverages and such like.
Cola advertising is one such category which depends entirely on the marketing buzz created (assuming product distribution is in place) to create preference. Consumers of carbonated fizzy drinks almost always accept the alternate brand at an outlet if their brand choice is not available. So while it is a distribution game, the ‘cool quotient’ of the brand comes into play; this is driven largely by advertising that gets talked about. Recall any famous campaign of leading brands such Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Thums Up, Mirinda, Fanta or 7-Up and its apparent that its the advertising property which drives memorability and affinity. RC Cola is a player in some countries taking on the ‘big boys’ who have unmatched legacy and marketing arsenal. So RC Cola’s advertising has to work that much harder. A couple of ads from them, meant for the Philippines market have gone viral and got media coverage. The attempt is get people laughing with bizarre, whacky plots and eye-popping situations. And it works.
Agency: GIGIL, Philippines
Understandably such creatives will evoke a bewildered reaction from a few. Some may even be put off with the mind-bending visuals and situations wondering what is going on. But that’s a risk the brand is willing to take, betting a certain mindset to find the ads appealing and share-worthy.
Dutch State Lottery: Frummel
The most effective of ads leave a lot unsaid and leave the interpretation to the viewer. In a way, it involves the viewer in the ad and gets them to make a connection in their heads – fill in the blanks, as it were. A new ad for Dutch State Lottery tells a heart warming story of a black cat (usually associated with bad luck) which seemingly brings good luck to the gent who adopts him only to present a sweet, unexpected twist in the tale at the end. Nothing is spelt out but the message is driven in an endearing manner. The ad had that feel-good feeling evoked in lavish Hollywood productions made for Christmas.
Frummel inspired the Dutch State Lottery to think about how it could bring more luck to the animals in the Netherlands. An initiative was created, in collaboration with local shelters and the national organisation, Dierenasiels.com, to put a spotlight on Dutch shelter cats. On December 11, the lottery hung posters across all larger Dutch cities with photos of “Frummel’s friends” who are looking for a new, caring home
Heineken: the driver’s fridge
Zero alcohol beer led to the ‘now you can drink and drive‘ message. In Singapore, the campaign got a tech angle to it with storage units being set up across the city. The units can be opened by any car key thus cueing that they are fit for drinking and driving.
Agency: Publicis, Singapore
Australians love sport and are known for being active players and not just spectators. A clever film dramatises the availability of American sports on a digital platform as an ‘invasion’ of Americans to Australia.
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Transport Accident Commission: Lucky ones get caught
I have been a big fan of the laser-focused objective, strategy and creative execution of the Traffic Accident Commission (TAC), Australia for years. Their blunt assertion ‘If you drink, then drive you’re a bloody idiot’ could be rude but is lot more effective than a mere ‘don’t drink and drive’ plea which no one takes seriously, especially in countries like India where we are not known for following traffic rules and being orderly. TAC tackled each aspect that could lead to a traffic accident after consuming alcohol – false bravado that ‘I’ve only had just a little’ in a series of powerful films, whose hallmark was the gut-wrenching emotion of accidents and their aftermath. The films did not go easy on gore factor with graphic, bone chilling accident sequences. The campaign is hailed as a case study in contributing to reducing road accidents in Melbourne.
On 10 December, 1989 the first TAC commercial went to air. In that year the road toll was 776 – by 2012 it had fallen to 303.
A new ad brings alive the need to stay safe behind the wheel and not follow traffic rules.
Agency: Clemenger BBDO
In Australia, a brand of sauce has attempted a variant of this approach by not revealing what the product is about, keeping it a mystery and driving traffic to a website for answers. I liked it because it takes guts to approve and invest behind a campaign which does not feature the brand name, the product or the logo. In the foods category, where ‘mouth-watering’ visuals are almost mandatory, the agency has taken a different approach through some clever copywriting. I particularly liked the one-liners on the website as you scroll down for the product reveal.
Agency: The Works
Over the years, several campaigns have been created across countries where there’s some sort of visual pun around McDonald’s iconic symbols and products – the burger, fries, the arch and Ronald. A new campaign to cue that the restaurant chains are open late night in New Zealand play subtly on visuals of reflections which are actually images of rainy roads but resemble familiar items from the menu.
Agency: DDB Aotearoa
Frida Mom: Postpartum Service Announcement
Maximum Effort, the creative agency started by actor Ryan Reynolds has a body of work which would make any legacy or ‘digital-first’ ad agency turn green with jealousy: Aviation Gin, Mint Mobile and Match.com to name a few. Their new effort is a PSA on what new mothers should watch out for. Even on a relatively ‘serious’ subject they manage to inject some fun.
Agency: Maximum Effort
Marriott Bonvoy: Joy is near
Travel and hospitality brands have had it tough in 2020. Even after a year, families are not yet ready to think of full-blown vacations involving travel to far off places. Several brands in the category are putting out communication reassuring consumers of safety measures at their properties but it would still take a while for consumers to adopt worry-free travel. In that context, staycations offer a good middle ground as families get a break from their chores at home and get the safety of a secluded stay in a luxury hotel room at one of the Marriott properties.
Alaska Airlines: safety dance
Quirky and ‘different’ airline safety videos have been a things on the web for few years now. The latest entrant is from Alaska Airlines which got its employees to do a safety dance highlighting the various safety measures taken aboard their flights.
Thai Health Promotion Foundation: Covidman
While the COVID-19 pandemic is global, each affected country has its own set of unique problems to deal with. In Thailand, speeding on the roads causes more deaths than COVID apparently and that fact is highlighted in an intriguing film, which personifies COVID.
Which one was your favourite? Do comment in.