Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 19 November 2014

A Trend in Advertising

I don’t watch a lot of television, so I’m not usually exposed to a lot of advertising.

I also don’t sleep a lot.

When I don’t sleep, I turn to my i-pad mini and indulge in tv, generally not terribly good tv, to help me drift off. I usually watch stuff on Netflix. Recently, I’ve been planning quite a lot of decorating in the house. The thing has been escalating, and it now looks like I’ll be tackling several rooms over the next couple of years. It’s all a bit of a project. All I originally planned to do was paint our bedroom, but then the dort decided she’d like to move rooms and some sort of weird domino effect kicked in.

Anyhow, as a result of the decorating bug taking hold, my night watching has switched to 4OD and a whole slew of building, renovating and restoration shows. With 4OD comes adverts, because I’m too cheap to pay to get rid of them, and because they don’t stop me nodding off if nodding off is ever going to happen.

There have always been good adverts and less good adverts, and while I’ve always prided myself that I’m not terribly influenced by ads, that I’m not an easy sell, I’ve certainly been influenced by some of the advertising that I’ve seen on the television in the last few weeks... and not for the good. Nobody has managed to sell me anything and I’ve actually decided to boycott three companies entirely.

Where advertising used to be either a straight sales job, or funny or even clever, there seem to be two new trends. Most advertising seems to be either daft or cynical. Daft is just daft. It irritates, and it’s hard to see how those ads get made. The cynical is unpleasant, thoughtless and potentially distressing.

The new Android ad falls into the first category. I think it’s daft. The advert relies on the premise that the product name Android can be split down the middle, so that And becomes the riff on which the ad hangs, setting up a rhythm: And this... And that... And the other... Android.

My problem with this is that by dividing the product name in half we’re left with ROID for heaven’s sake. Now, I don’t know what roid means to you, but it means one of two things to me, and I think to most people: 

Roid is short for Steroid as in Roid Rage.


Roid is short for Haemorrhoid, as in piles.

What advertising creative team really thought that was anything other than a throwaway idea on the way to the real stuff? And then who at Android thought it was a good idea to sign off on it?

An awful lot of people are involved in the creating and making of an advert, and a great deal of money is spent on buying ad space, and this is how Android decided to present and sell itself, and no one along the way to getting the ads on the telly questioned any of it.

I’m sorry, but that’s really daft. It just makes me think everyone at Android is stupid, and that the people they employ to represent them to the public are stupid too. I never wanted an Android device, but if it had ever crossed my mind to consider buying one, I’d certainly be put off by their advert.

The O2 advert isn’t so much stupid as just very, very sad. O2 has got a whole tech support thing going on in its ads at the moment. Various onlookers witness people having tech problems and report them back to O2, where solutions are found. The ad viewer puts himself in the position of the poor sap having the problem and is sold the solution. It’s a simple advertising strategy. In the Twinkle ad a young man struggles to soothe his crying child. The cat who witnesses this reports back to O2 where a concerned young woman suggests the problem be solved by synching devices so that the father can find the lullaby Twinkle Twinkle to play to his distressed baby.

Oh Good Grief!

There might be a great many good reasons to synch devices, and O2 might have as many solutions as the next service provider, but the idea that a father is panicked and a child in distress because he can’t find a tune to play that he could in fact sing to his baby is too sad for me to contemplate. Who writes these ads? Who signs off on them? Did nobody in that decision-making process have a child? Have we really come to this?

I would go on, but I daren’t, because if I do, I shall start ranting about modern parenting, and I’m almost sure that parents are still singing to their young children... almost.

So I won’t be buying an Android and I won’t be switching to O2, but tea is only tea, right? Wrong!

I like tea. I drink decaff earl grey and I drink the occasional cup of something herbal. The husband drinks builders’ tea and rather more herbal than I do, and he has various favourites. 

I very nearly emptied the tea cupboard when I first saw this particular advert.

The advert is intended to be funny, but it’s cynical and grubby, and the strap-line is deeply unpleasant.

The suggestion is that we have a love affair with our tea, and I have no problem with that. At least, I’d have no problem with that if we were at liberty to indulge. Sex has been selling things for ever, even on the television. We all remember the pretty girl with the crumbly chocolate. I don’t have a huge problem with that. Ok, I sort of do, but not really the way you think. That’s for another blog.

Clipper promotes its tea in a telly ad. There are various tableaux of couples drinking tea together, apparently in domestic bliss. Then lines scroll across the screen stating that one or other of the couple is having an affair. It goes on from one partner to both, to groups of people, outing infidelities. I began to wonder what was going on. The first time I saw the advert, I wondered if it was for some sort of drama that I wouldn’t be watching, but it wasn’t, it was an advert for teabags. 

The punchline to the advert is that these people are being unfaithful to their regular tea. Then came the strapline. I winced. Seriously, someone, somewhere thought that this was clever or funny... or... what did they think? And how many people went along with it?

Infidelity might be commonplace, it might be a regular feature of some people’s lives. Some people don’t even consider it very serious any more. I’m aware that I’m pretty old-fashioned, but I also know that adultery is grounds for divorce. People take vows about this stuff.

The strapline for the new Clipper advert is Ditch The Old Bag. It’s nasty. While as many women as men are cited in the ad as unfaithful, nevertheless ‘old bag’ is an insult that’s always been applied to women. Yes, I know Clipper is ostensibly talking about the old brand of teabag, but actually it isn’t, is it?

This advert is cynical and misogynistic. It must, surely cause discomfort and possibly even distress to many who have been let down by those who should have loved them. I know I wouldn’t want to sit down to watch my favourite decorating program only to be reminded of pain and misery by a sodding tea advert. Not funny. Not clever. There must be hundreds of ways to sell a teabag, and I can see how good sex sells, but bad sex? 

There was a time when we celebrated advertising, when some adverts were mini-triumphs of film-making, with themes and ideas, with beautiful, tightly written scripts and great jingles and straplines.
I couldn't stand the thought of giving space to any of the
companies I've mentioned, so here's the husband
sitting in one of the rooms I don't plan to decorate

I’m not sure when last I saw a really great ad. Yes, I've seen both of the big Christmas adverts for this year. They're fine: longwinded and sentimental, but fine. I thought the singing in the Sainsbury's ad was rather good, but I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the meeting of commerce and charity or with a supermarket logo being attached to WWI. Again, this is probably material for another blog.

We avoid adverts now. We subscribe to channels and providers that don’t carry advertising or we find ways to hack them out of our existence. But, and it’s a big but, competition for our disposable cash is never going to go away, so companies are going to keep trying to get our attention and they’re going to keep trying to sell to us. I wish they’d just learn to do it a whole lot better than they appear to be doing it at the moment. I wish they’d bring back the warm fuzzy feeling at the very least, and not just for Christmas. I wish they’d make us laugh or even cry. Daft, miserable, cynical and nasty aren’t going to sell me anything, and, right now, they’re the ads I’m noticing. 

It looks like my disposable income is going to stay in my pocket... No, wait, there’s paint to buy... and no I’m not a sucker for Old English Sheepdogs.

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