Now I spent 20 years as a marketeer in the telecoms industry heading up numerous activities in sponsorship, PR, dealer and channel management, promotions, literature and PoS, digital activity, website development, corporate hospitality, events and exhibitions, and, not least, advertising. I say not least because advertising usually attracted the largest share of a company’s marketing budget and yet it happened to be the least likeable element of the marketing mix for me. Probably because my personal control was somewhat subjugated by the influence of the expensive advertising agency we usually employed. And they worked hard to keep the whole subject of advertising a dark art only capable of being understood by their extensive team of creatives, media planners, media buyers, client liaison people (bag men and mostly sassy women), talent negotiators, and senior exec’s who only surfaced when it was contract renewal time or when you were being critical of the agency’s work. And then they had a secret hotline to your MD.
I think I might have made a decent forensic examiner once upon a time as I notice little things which are a little odd (and sometimes amusing too). For example I’m watching the Quest tv channel on Dplay quite a lot and some of their programmes are sponsored by Argentinian wine brand Trivento. Their marketing team have devised a series of idents – little promo ads – that appear in the commercial breaks promoting the idea that drinking Trivento sets you off on some ‘bold discoveries’. I know, it’s an over-blown idea; where I’m from that’s just a euphemism for getting pissed. I think there are 8 in the series and all are twaddle but the one that makes me smile is a shot of a surfer girl who says something inane before heading off to go surfing. It’s not so much what she says that makes me smile it’s her sense of direction. Have a look at this video and you’ll see her run to the right then suddenly she veers left as if she’s noticed a better bit of sea to aim for.
Well it may not win the award for outstanding comedy performance at the Bafta’s but it never fails to make me chuckle. Little things, like I said.
bafta paulie (did I ever tell you I’ve got two of the little brass winkers?)
There have been lots of tv ads which have capitalised on the covid crisis to position companies as the most caring of brands. You’ve seen them – that Co-op one with Marcus Rashford aimed at driving donations to food redistribution charity FareShare is a classic. It’s not his woodenness that jars so much as the creative thinking behind the need to create empathy with the viewer. The charitable purpose is absolutely fantastic but that over-familiarity bit where the bloke goes ‘You’re on mute Rashy’ makes me squirm. Check it out…
I tell you what’s bloody odd, that tv advert for power utility company SSE. It features an orang utan (!) going up and down escalators apparently signifying a fresh look at electricity supply. If I was going to ask somebody to cast a fresh pair of eyes over the attributes of the various energy companies I’d definitely pick an orange-coloured primate to do it. No I wouldn’t; it’s a frigging stupid notion. Nor would I use one of the great love songs, When I Fall in Love, by Nat King Cole as the musical soundtrack because absolutely no-one is in love with any of the energy suppliers in the UK, the grasping, expensive bar-stewards. It’s almost like they’re taking the monkey juice. If you think I’m being unkind take a look at let me know I’ve got it wrong…
I’ll tell you another weird ad; that latest one for moneysupermarket.com where there’s a blerk with a bum as big as Kim Kardashian’s, in tight shorts and high heels (and a jacket, nice shirt and tie incongrously) twerking away in front of a woman carrying two dogs and who looks like Sharon Osbourne’s Spitting Image puppet. I suspect it’s poking fun at our sexist attitudes but I actually find it quite difficult to watch. More to the point it wouldn’t encourage me to go and check out the company’s utility/insurance comparison website because, as we now know, it’d make more sense to go and chat with an ape. Confused.com? Check it out…
Finally I can remember back in the very early days of Cellnet (now O2) my great boss BMc managed to convince the then hottest female actress in the world, Joan Collins, to do a tv commercial for us based on the idea that she ‘didn’t do ads’. He taught me to aim high. Almost 30 years later I shouldn’t be surprised to see that celebrity endorsement is still a key advertising plank. And speaking of wooden, what is Kevin Bacon doing promoting mobile network EE? The same thing that Joan was doing all those years ago, earning a pile of money for 30 secs of work. But it’s sad to see an actor as fine as Harvey Keitel reprising his Winston Wolf character from one of my favourite films, Pulp Fiction, for some crappy ads for Direct Line insurance. I guess nothing changes and money still talks eh. But it’s still weird to see him doing the ads with jobbing actors and crummy pay-off lines. He looks like he’s enjoying it as much as if he had anal warts…
I have been accused of being a bit of a professional northern, wearing my up north cloak when it suits, then reverting to urbane London-lifer/Italian medallion man the rest of the time. Well isn’t that what we all do if truth be told ie fit in as seemlessly as possible into your surroundings? It’s not like I bang on about how wonderful life is in Barnsley like Michael Parkinson or talk faux scouse like Cilla Black whilst both have spent the last 40 years living in leafy Surrey. I’m the first person to sing the praises of a place but also to point out its idiosyncracies and downsides. Look at my last posting if you want proof!
After a busyish sort of day I’ve had a couple of hours just to myself this afternoon, and I’ve done nothing other than sit here and just think about, well, unimportant things – blissful. Regular readers will recognise this tendency of mine to muse on life’s big issues and today I’ve been giving thought to the Co-op and more specifically to their strap-line ‘Good with food’.
It’s one of those snappy little brand phrases which is almost perfect. It sums up the essence of the supermarket and looks great written down because of the repetition of the ‘ood’ expression. It’s tempting to say ‘nice assonance’ but the English language is nothing if not contrary and wouldn’t you know it, the words good and food are pronounced slightly differently. Perfidious Albion eh. It’s the most powerful language on earth but it must drive new learners to absolute distraction. But that’s why I find it so utterly intriguing. To be truly perfect, food would need to be pronounced as fud but of course it isn’t. So the canny Co-op have employed the fine Scottish actor John Hannah, who has a distinctive S. Lanarkshire accent, to do the voice-over in their adverts. So that when you hear the line it sounds like ‘Guid with Fuid’.
Hats off; they nearly pull it off. But I still see one thing and yet I want to hear ‘good with fud’ which just makes me smile. Don’t you love it when things that are almost brilliant but slightly imperfect? As John Hannah might say ‘wuds are guid’. Typical Scots; English mashers!
Speaking of really funny guys have you nerticed how many so-called comedians and comic actors are just not that funny? I’m not talking about those sad old gits still crucifying the comedy arts like Bruce frigging Forsyth, Ronnie ‘the tapper’ Corbett, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball and Lenny Henry. Nor am I talking about those giants of the US comedy scene like Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin who became totally sterile of humour the moment somebody in La La land told them they were accomplished film actors rather than great stand-ups.
One of my many quirks is that I notice little quirks in others. I’m currently intrigued by a dull little tv ad for landlord insurance featuring Sarah Beeney. Now I rather like Ms Beeney, she’s intelligent and forthright and successful. I’ve read that she admits to one insecurity – about her hair. Well that’s as maybe but I have noticed another endearing little feature which is her tendency to flex her fingers when making a point. I’ve noticed it in other people too. I don’t know what it signifies but I like to see her doing it – I’m sure involuntarily – as she talks. It’s a very subtle gesture and you have to be tuned in to see it but it’s funny and cute. Check the ad and watch for the Beeney flick!
Almost all of us have particular little tics and mannerisms that we’re rarely conscious of. From watching videos of platform speeches I know I do a gurning kind of thing with my mouth at the end of making a key point. Rather than appear serious, which is the look I’m aiming for, I look comical. And I can’t help myself.
If you’ve got a quirky mannerism or have noticed them in others please let me know. I promise not to chuckle….rudely!