To save you from a sea of wanky sameness that’s awash the industry.
Now more than ever, The Blogfather is here for you, and he doesn’t mean a protection racket. This week he’s lobbed a line into the sea of sameness to see which COVID-era brands take the clichéd wank bait…and landed a shoal of shite.
I’m no stranger to time inside. Like my last loaf of lockdown sourdough, it’s tough. Virtual shakedowns when half the Cosa Nostra’s internet connection is more out of touch than Gal Gadot’s rendition of ‘Imagine’ is f*cking tough.
These are trying times. For both 5G-conspiracy-goons and my patience. In my oxymoronic efforts at forced relaxation, I’ve taken to yoga, contorting myself into shapes like an Auntie Anne’s rejected pretzel. A sore reminder that perhaps I should Nama-stay in front of the TV instead.
I’ve flicked through Bake Off but it’s celebrities, Bake Off but it’s sewing and Bake Off but it’s pottery. And it’s clear the Beeb is at the bottom of the pre-recorded barrel. Even lockdown Live Aid seemed more tone-deaf than tuned-in.
In the musical equivalent of Chatroulette, stars socially distanced themselves from their greatest hits in place of cry-inducing cathartic covers. Elton John solemnly-warbled from a piano incongruously placed under a basketball hoop. It raised a tremendous $127m. But I don’t think I’m alone in saying…it was f*cking depressing. Ryan Wallman hit the nail on the head:
Hey, multimillionaire rockstars singing from your mansions.— Ryan Wallman (@Dr_Draper) April 19, 2020
Just fuck off for a bit, yeah?
Ad breaks are equally dire. Sobering piano. Stock footage of empty streets. Followed by a message of togetherness, solidarity. And reassurance that an ominous multinational corporation is “here” for us, thank God.
Even Taco Bell wants to give me a hug...
My encounters with Mexican food have ended in many things. A hug isn’t one of them.
Dave Trott shared this brilliant supercut by Microsoft Sam, revealing COVID-era ads are well-nigh identical.
This is what happens when you don't think about the environment your ad will run in - you end up just like everyone else and become invisible: "Family - now more than ever - during these uncertain times - home - we're here for you - together" https://t.co/ihRLgY1Ef2— dave trott (@davetrott) April 17, 2020
Mark Ritson took a bite at the formula in his latest blog:
A tinkling piano. Monochrome deserted streets. An old newspaper blows past. Empty chairs. Gloomy skies. Concerned faces. “We’ve been there for you since 19-something something,” says a comforting, homespun voice.
The tempo of the piano increases. The sun rises. “But in these unprecedented times,” the voice continues, “we can still be there for each other and our families.”
Product shot. Slow-motion video of employees interacting in a friendly yet socially isolated manner. Children play at home on the sofa. An old person waves through a webcam. “Together with you.” Logo.
Its wank. Clichéd wank.
I get that a brazen “HI I’M BARRY SCOTT” might downplay the gravity of the situation. But surely now more than ever, we need two things: 1) Cilit Bang (if you take Donald Trump's advice) and 2) Escapism.
This is perhaps the one time a Kia Sorento can’t solve all our problems…
Suddenly seeing a lot of pre-roll ads that are like "Sometimes life can get a little dark. Let the new Kia Sorento light the way to a better tomorrow."— Joe Berkowitz (@JoeBerkowitz) March 25, 2020
New York-based copywriter Samantha Geloso went one step further with her film, “Hey, we’re a brand”, that is a right royal piss-taking of the COVID-era ad framework. Ouch.
“Maybe you’re a little scared. We are too. Scared of losing sales.”
At the risk of sounding ignorant, I’ll quote Shann Biglione on The Overthinkers podcast:
“It’s very easy to get it wrong and I’ll give marketers a break. It’s very hard to hit the right notes right now.”
It’s easy for the Blogfather to give both barrels to brands anytime. Things aren’t smooth sailing for brand navigation. But is charting a course through the sea of sameness, accompanied by the piano equivalent of tinnitus, the way to go?
“These brands also have clear product positioning and brand associations that they could be communicating. Where is the attempt to build brand associations? How about a good old-fashioned link to a product benefit?”
And picked out Guinness’s “hastily altered” St Paddy’s Day ad as one still “building salience and brand associations, and reflecting on the spirit of the times”.
We love talking on distinctiveness at Gasp. And just because times are strange, doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply. In fact, it could be more important now than ever.
So, I’ll bastardize an old blog of ours:
How do you go about being genuinely distinct? Having a grasp on how the human mind works helps, for starters. Last year, the Gasp team trundled off to see Dave Trott talk. He mentioned how the human mind acts as a pattern-making machine that organises things into groups.
Take a look at this:
What stands out? The X. Dave used the example of ads in an advert break (10 ads, with one that goes against the grain), but it can be applied to a lot of things. It reminded us of this from our own site.
There’s over 20 sheep in the image above. But your brain will remember just two. One black, and one white. And that’s the key. How do you compare with both your direct and indirect competition?
With one advert standing out as being genuinely different, the viewer lumps all the mediocre stuff, all the O's and white sheep, into one group, leaving the different ad, the X or the black sheep, with 50% of the mind's attention
Unless you’re this guy. Cognitive dissonance much?
We know things are sh*t. And we’re all craving escapism. Gasp’s own Giles Edwards and a group of fellow creatives, including copywriter Glenn Fisher, designer Tommy Mason and developer Matt Ballington, have come together to produce ISOLATEDTalks.com. With a loving nod to the TED Talks, it’s a platform that’ll continue to share ideas and insight from the ad industry’s biggest boffins during the coronavirus lockdown. All to raise money for the Samaritans.
“I noticed people I know struggling mentally. I personally felt it. There’s been a lot in the media suggesting the lockdown is a ‘mental health ticking time bomb’ so I wanted to find a way to help anticipate that challenge. It costs about a fiver for the Samaritans to answer one call and I thought people might donate that to see a talk from someone like Rory Sutherland.”
Feast your eyes and ears on ISOLATEDTalks.com and enjoy talks donated by adland stars like Rory Sutherland (Ogilvy), Vikki Ross (Sky), Dave Trott, Jane Evans (Uninvisibility), Amy Kean (&us), Rob Schwartz (TBWA/CHIAT/DAY), Nicole Yershon (The NY Collective) and Mark Pollard (Mighty Jungle).
You won’t be accosted by Ellie Goulding’s rendition of The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close to Me from a gold-plated bathtub, we promise.