Advertising As Spectacle.
Once upon a time new ads and marketing ideas were closely guarded secrets. Increasing clutter, new media channels, restless customers and a changing world meant that agencies and marketers had to rethink the formula to ensure that people look at their communication in the right way. Side by side, the stakes of making an ordinary, formulaic ad got too expensive so some agencies opted out of the box.
Nowadays marketers do all they can to get consumers involved in the process of adcreation. The Sony Balls commercial that was shot in San Francisco was unique for many reasons. Not only did the agency and the client agree to break all the rules that stood in the way of creating TV commercials, they created an ad which people happily shared and participated in even before it went on air. With the Paint, the play dough bunnies, and foam city commercials the agency and the client allow consumers become willing participants in the making of the ads.
Many marketers now believe that creating communication that’s original and unique is far more important than messages that are relevant and ingrained in the brand. Work that simply entertains without having any connection with the brand seems to be able to do more for branding and sales than work that’s been done using traditional methods.
A few weeks ago advertising took another giant leap with the Honda Skydivers commercial. The ad, difficult is worth doing (the blog was up weeks before the ad went live), was aired live on UK’s Channel 4, where, for three minutes and 20 seconds, a group of stunt drivers formed the word H-O-N-D-A, as they fell through the sky from 14,000 feet.
Channel 4’s sales director, Andy Barnes, who like other broadcast executives is battling a looming advertising downturn, said the advert, which required a special permission from the advertising watchdog, broke “the boundaries of the perceived confines of TV advertising. We wanted to create something unmissable and what better way to produce something ‘must see’ than to stage the first live ad event on TV,” he added. “It’s about creating talkability on a big scale, managing the risk and being seen as pioneers for it.”
In fact the ad did so well as a spectacle that it boosted the viewership of Channel 4. Honda’s stunt aired between 8.10 pm and 8.13 pm, during which time ratings increased from just over 2 million to 2.2 million viewers, according to unofficial TV ratings.
Clients and agencies are upping their ante when it comes to doing the improbable. Honda UK’s marketing manager Ian Armstrong, speaking to media after the event was in philosophical mood when asked about doing an ad with such a high probability for failure. “There will be no time delay and no CGI. If it works, people will know who it’s for. If it doesn’t, they won’t,” he said.
The Hondas, Sonys and Cadburys are pushing the envelope when it comes to creating spectaculars that capture people’s imagination. As more and more marketers jump into an area where the rules are still being written consumers can sit back and enjoy some pretty interesting spectacles done in the name of advertising.