There was an ad, screened in the some time ago in New Zealand that captured the idea of this conversation in a succinct and salient way. It showed a man walking away from a beach. As he ranged further from the tide his attire changed in its significance.
As the context changed, so did the meaning of his swimwear.
When close to the tide his Speedos were 'togs'.
When further away and amongst the world they were …'undies'.
A man in bikini pants on the beach was ok. On the street?…Not so much.
Context was everything.
In the context of the ad insight into linguistics were also important: Tog versus Undies. Same scant attire. Fully clothed semiotics.
Here's the ad:
I was in a planning session with a client recently, discussing health care advertising.
An ad occurred to me to illustrate a point.
This is it:
In our meeting one of my clients expressed a point view about the ad - which I had showed out of context - that it might have been better without the orchestra/crooner motif - 'just show the facts.'
It's easy to express a judgement about the C4 Olympics ads based on a superficial aspect of the execution. Sure the crooner/big band element might have confused some people or seemed unnecessary. But context matters.
The London Olympics were a massive spectacle. The event captured the attention and imagination of the world. Traditionally the paralymics follow the main event. Imagine that…saturated with sport and populism, the viewing audience would have been ready for a cigarette and lights out.
By Introducing the motif of the big band etc…performed, …if you will indulge me the smallest of puns, the dual roles of both attention getting device PARP!…and introduce an element of surprise.
After weeks and months of Olympian, homo-erotic, Leni Riefenstahl* moments where big brands and broadcasters would have tugged at the obvious heart-strings of pride and projected glory… out roll the gimps*.
Do we have your attention now?
On the 'stage' of the musical presentation C4 seized the opportunity to create a set-piece that showcased the talents of the disabled athletes that might make viewers lean forward to experience something like joy and exhilaration, …to wonder what will come next and to marvel at accomplishment that would be marvellous in able-bodied people.
The trailer brought otherness to centre-stage and showed us grim things without making us want to look away ('eww - stumps!').
It made us not think - 'Oh look, Love, they're just like us…had me another Gingernut, mine seems to have sunk into the cup…" but that the Athletes are in fact Superhuman. In the Marvel comics influenced world we do like to marvel at the oddball outsiders with magical powers - often inflicted on them by birth or accident and incident.
Advertising is a famously bitchy business - Broadway meets Rue Paul's Drag Strip show. On trade websites like StopPress here in New Zealand anonymous comments are permitted. The consequence is a limited, cheap-shot environment. It's as tempting to dismissively criticise the work of others too quickly through schadenfruende or confirmation bias as it is to be excited by an ad's superficial execution - without considering whether of not it had any effect with its intended audience (and, no, a Cannes jury is not a valid target audience).
If you work in a category, say pet food or healthcare it would make sense to look carefully at the advertising of competitors. Let's assume their market is your customers and their intention is to increase their market share at your expense. To achieve that goal you would assume:
a) They have some experience to match your own and have access to historical data and an understanding of future trends.
b) They may have spend a considerable amount of money on research in order to find compelling, competitive ways to persuade your customers to choose their brand
c) their advertising agency may have assigned a strategic planner to synthesise all of the above in to the message you see on the screen - there may be an insight at the heart of the execution that is not obvious on viewing (the best ads do have insights into consumer behaviour and don't always wear them on their sleeve).
You can benefit from that investment with an open mind and critical analysis, rather than viewing superficially or reflexively. Of course the objective is not to emulate competitors but to understand consumers and add insight into your own strategy - from which you can outfox your competition.
*Disparaging term - used to make an ironic dramatic point, I'm sorry for any offence, not intended.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.