Wednesday, 24 June 2015

in it for the long run

In an unstable world like ours what we all seek is a sense of continuity, a feeling of never-ending stasis, that, to paraphrase that god-awful Celine song, that “You are safe in my heart, and my heart will go and on.”

An idea that resonates with many clients in adland who, having found a formula for their advertising stick with it, no matter what.
This sounds dull, but often it can lead to great work. After all if the agency has a framework to build on it frees up the need to create from the feared white page up. This can be as simple as an endline, a technique or even a spokesman.
In January of 2000 Sean, the man from “Trunkmonkey Racing” in the USA created the “Trunkmonkey” concept as a mascot for his race team and the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club.
It proved to be a major hit with his teams’ supporters, so much so that they put together a commercial.
“Road rage,” plays upon that all too common situation where the seemingly helpless driver is confronted by the huge raging loony who feels he has been the victim of bad driving and stands banging on your car window demanding some kind of justice. With the press of the “Trunkmonkey” button a barmy chimp is released from the car boot, or trunk to our American cousins, and proceeds to beat the crap out of the big guy with a wheel spanner thing. It’s a very fulfilling commercial for those of us who have ever been confronted by purple faced giants intent on tearing us limb from limb.

Catch the monkey at:

The crazed chimp, however, was such a big hit that the Trunkmonkey guys realised they had lucked into a viable company image. In fairly rapid succession they created an excellent campaign of ads. “Alien Abduction,” “First Aid,” “Chaperone,” “Pediatric Edition,” ”Want a Donut?” “Throwing Eggs.” And my own favourite, “Thrown off a Bridge, in which a car thief is dragged from the car and thrown bodily from a high bridge. Very satisfying indeed.
And it achieved two important things; it made the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club famous, and created a sense of anticipation amongst the consumer as they waited to see who the mad chimp would assault next.
Locally our most successful version of this is no doubt the every youthful Nando’s campaign which, like most long-term formats, has it’s great moments and its lows. The latest political voting ad featuring the ANC youth leader as a puppet talking of great change is a timely, well thought out piece.
One of the touch-stones for longevity in ad campaigns for a long time was for Hamlet cigars. With the instantly recognisable musical mnemonic they featured people to whom a small misfortune occurred who rose above it with “a mild cigar from Benson & Hedges.”
From 1966 until 1997 they reigned supreme as an example of how to keep a great idea fresh and distinctive, yet remain true to the central concept.
You can inhale a comprehensive collection at:
You’ll find not only the early stuff like “Music Teacher,” featuring members of the “Carry On” squad of comedians, but also “Robots”, the response to the original Star Wars film, “Tennis” and the ultimate Bald bloke horror, “Photo-booth.”
The genius of the agency Collett Dickenson Pearce was that to keep the idea fresh they backed it up with topical executions, not only on TV but on radio and in the press. Famously when the English cricket captain Ian Botham was dragged through the press for smoking a little recreational cannabis they ran a photo of him smoking a cigar with the “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet” line under it. A quick reacting agency and a brave client are a powerful mix.
Great ideas come from anywhere, people are constantly telling me. In 1968 Hamlet ran an ad showing a bloke undressing in front of a bunch of scandalised women in a laundrette, popping his clothes in the washer and calmly smoking his cigar.
Twenty years later the exact same scenario was used by Bartle Bogle & Hegarty to re-launch a seemingly dying brand of jeans to an uncaring public.
Featuring model Nik Kamen and the Marvin Gaye classic “I heard it through the Grapevine,” it was admittedly a steamier version. Not only did it help push a lot of denim, it also was the start of one of the most successful campaigns of commercials ever seen which continues today around the world. Both in commercial and in adland fame there has probably never been a campaign with such diversity and longevity.
One of the latest, is a bizarre tribute to the 80’s classic “Tainted Love.”

I include it not only as an example of the ongoing greatness of the campaign, but because my art director, sweet girl that she is, hasn’t stopped giggling and twirling her beads ever since she saw it last week. And if it can make her smile it can do the same for almost anyone.

As campaigns that make you smile go the long-running Castlemaine XXXX beer campaign is not often surpassed. Starting with two of our Aussie brothers who drop their cans of lager into a croc infested river:
It has run successfully from the 80’s constantly maintaining its ability to poke fun at the flaws in the character of the Antipodean male. (it would probably go down very well here in S.A.).

Continuity in advertising is a strong and often neglected thing as clients and agencies alike struggle for “the next best thing.”
The overpowering urge for change, even in the midst of great successes it niggles at the back of even the sanest brain, “could I do better in another job/country/relationship.”
However, the cry of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” is not always one of nervous protectionism from an agency, often it’s based in the knowledge that truly memorable advertising comes from powerful, single-minded ideas carried across campaigns that grow with time rather than fade away.

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