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So Who the Devil Are Thinkbox?

There’s an ad running on TV in the UK at the moment – a guy on a therapist’s couch recites lines from various famous ads –

So little Mummy and me were sat watching Christmas TV (I’m guessing it was either Poirot or Miss Marple – it usually is) and the advert came on.

Mumsy pipes up – “Who are Thinkbox?”

Sadly enough I happen to know (that’s what working in marketing does to you, turns you into a blurry know all) that they are the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK – basically they’re to TV what the IAB is to online. 

So essentially they’ve created a TV ad to remind everyone how great (or perhaps effective) advertising on TV is.

Makes sense, right?

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. TV advertising is an effective medium… but it’s mass market. The idea of extolling the virtues of TV advertising in a mass market way seems a little odd. Only a itsy bitsy teeny weeny percentage (yep that’s an officially recognised mathsy statistical term) will be in control of a marketing or advertising budget.

An even itsy bisty teeny weenier percentage of those will have a marketing or advertising budget that will stretch to a TV campaign. These peeps are the ‘target market’.

And of those who are ‘target market’ – how many are going to be convinced by this campaign in any case?

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a ‘nice’ ad (sorry if that sounds mean, I feel a little bit mean today). They’ve picked out some memorable ads.

But, is it the best way for them to reach their target market? I’m not so sure.

And, perhaps most importantly – given that they are the marketing body for TV advertising – shouldn’t their TV campaign (in an ideal world) be a glowing example of how to use this fantastically effective medium?

Lindsey Clay, Marketing Director for Thinkbox says:

“This is something we’ve wanted to do for some time and we’re delighted our shareholders have invested to make it possible. We obviously believe in the unrivalled power of TV to deliver business success and it has never been more important to make sure every brand understands what TV can do for them.”

Lindsey, I know I’m pissing on your cornflakes but your objective “to make sure every brand understands what TV can do for them” is woolly at best.

How are you going to measure that? TV reaches people, not brands.

Your objective, surely is to ensure that the right people, at the right organisations consider TV advertising as part of their marketing mix.

Will your TV campaign do that? Maybe.

But, is your TV campaign the most effective way to fulfil your objective? I’d suggest maybe not. Which coming from the very body extolling the efficacy of TV – well it jars somewhat, doesn’t it?

Are We Ready for a Self-Deprecating Brand?

It’s shocking isn’t it? Two posts in two days. I know, I know. I deserve a badge. Or something.

*       *       *

Anywho, this post has been in the pipeline since September when my lovely pal Debbi asked:

“I was wondering whether I could pick your brains on self-deprecating brands.  Does such a thing exist? Can you think of any examples of self-deprecating ‘aren’t we all a bit rubbish never mind let’s have a laugh about it’ campaigns?
Am just having a debate with my colleagues. I reckon I’d respond really well to a brand who openly took the piss out of themselves. Do you ever think it’s a good idea?”
Here’s my response:

“Perhaps not strictly self-deprecating, but certainly self aware, Pot Noodle spring to mind – remember their slag of all snacks campaign?

We know Pot Noodles are dirty, they know Pot Noodles are dirty, they know we know Pot Noodles are dirty – hence the slag of all snacks. The ad got banned sadly, but I thought it was fab.
Tesco Mobile are trying a take on this too:

Whilst not self-deprecating per se, they’re certainly poking fun at the ‘change the world via text’ nonsense the other mobile networks are spouting with their no nonsense ad.

Is there space of a self-deprecating brand? You’d need to be careful you didn’t do a Ratner*!
However, I’d say yes, absolutely. You’d need clear positioning in terms what the brand did do well, and for obvious reasons you’d be restricted to certain niches… No one’s going to buy a self deprecating diet pill – ‘you might not lose weight, but hey, you’ve less money to spend on cakes and chips fatty…’
If you accept that music artists are brands, then I’d argue there are a lot of self deprecating brands out there already. That self-deprecation hasn’t done those artists any harm; in fact it’s probably done the opposite. In real terms the consumer relates to the artist (and therefore the brand). As branding in the noughties has become more and more about engagement rather than aspiration, perhaps indeed it’s the way to go.”

And so dear hearts, over to you: Are you ready for a self-deprecating brand? Can you highlight any other examples?

Best comment (as judged by me) gets a Ferrero Rocher.

Yep, just one. Not a box. Whaddya think I am? Made of money?



*Gerald Ratner damn near ruined Ratners in 1991 with his “it’s total crap” speech at the Institute of Directors… But you knew that already, right?

All Marketers Are Liars

I work in marketing.

I’ve been know to be frugal with the truth. 

But, just for the record, I’d really rather not be. It’s less about morality (although of course I like to think I have a strong moral compass), and more about what actually works.

Polishing turds is a pointless exercise. They really don’t shine up that well… and even if they do – what do you have? A shiny turd. Excellent. A triumph of style over substance. Nothing more than spin.

And, spin – well it makes customers dizzy.

You might bamboozle them for a short while, but once they’ve regained their 20:20 vision, they’ll realise. They’ll feel short-changed at best, and at worst will be busily casting the cruciatus curse in your general direction.

They’re not going to say nice things about you.

They’re not going to recommend a friend.

There will be great vengeance and furious anger spewing forth from your customers mouths, screaming from their facebook statuses, and flooding twitter.

Maybe you’ll wonder why. Maybe you’ll blame the marketers.

But, perhaps, dear hearts – you really ought to reassess what it is you’re selling.

I know you like to think your shit don’t stink…
…But lean a little closer, those roses really smell like boo boo*

So rather than having your marketers spending their days polishing turds and fighting fires, create something truly brilliant. A service that delivers. A product which works. Customers who evangelise rather than curse you.

I’m about to stoop very low. I’m quoting Jerry Maguire (I’m sorry)

Help me help you.

Or perhaps

Help marketers help you.

We’d really like to be good. And we’d really like you to be good too.


*Lyrics from Roses, by OutKast, 2003.