Tag: humour

think differently this christmas.

Although this blog isn’t a reviewing website, it’s been a while since I haven’t posted something and what’s better than the Christmas spirit to celebrate (and rant) on what Adland has to offer this year.


Last year saw a burst of newcomers and as there’s always so much you can say about Christmas, most brands ended up saying the same thing, to the point that Currys and Harvey Nichols shared voice for giftface. That’s probably why everyone is taking on a subversive message for this year’s Holidays. Let’s start with the very Harvey Nichols who clearly didn’t want to risk being imitated this year with this original – if not questionable – execution “Britalia”. In an era of data-driven clients, I’ve read that the retailer recorded a peak in sales of Italian products… Buon natale then! But Harvey Nichs isn’t the only one to have taken an original approach, it’s hats off to the never-disappointing W+K and their latest spot for TK Maxx that brought a brilliant Christmas twist to their new brand promise.

And how can we forget the ball opener that was Burberry’s trailer-like short about the life of Thomas Burberry? Unfortunately for them and as with all things successful, they seem to be on for unveiling the full feature…

In the mean time, Currys stayed within the reasonable with a humorous take on gifting and House of Fraser built on last year’s musical success. One will note my deliberate move to omit John Lewis’ effort which will, by no doubt given their choice of director, be another tear-jerker that you’ll either love or hate.

Merry Christmas Adland, and keep thinking differently for more than just the Holidays!

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think small.

Celebrating one of the most powerful ideas ever from Volkswagen and DDB in style, courtesy of a great Art Director (Samuel Hanson), my modest copywriting skills and our superstar pug Epice.

And remember, think it over.


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is any publicity good publicity?

Is there really no such thing as bad publicity? Probably the biggest unresolved mystery on Planet PR. Blogs are full of it and no publicist will be able to give you a proper answer. First of all what is publicity? Above and beyond its definition from the schoolbooks, it’s greatest strength – gaining true trust from consumers – relies on its greatest weakness – a lack of control in its creation and deployment.


Isn’t that adage misleading? Ask BP after its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, who had to spend millions to rebuild its image, and is – regardless – remembered for it, whether it is through some bad press or through infamous Halloween costumes. How about Tiger Woods and the loss of 6 sponsorship deals, let alone his recent performances on the green? Toyota and its products recall? And the list goes on. As it would be too easy otherwise, there are also examples of brands that did benefit from bad publicity. Kanye West (like other singers) and all his related controversy ended up being at the top of consumers’ minds and saw his albums sales jumping. How about these awful movies which always end up landing at the top of the box office?

Last summer, at the Cannes Lions (the biggest worldwide annual event of the advertising industry gathering agencies, clients and like-minded), Grey thought they’d make a splash by hiring a plane with one of those trailing banners. One human mistake later, they were all over the press and blogosphere as an agency that cannot even ensure quality-checks on a 4-word banner – hardly a reliable partner for a client. Working for that same agency, we discussed it internally, not accepting that it was a “mistake”. Some argued that if the job was to get Grey’s name out there at an Industry event that is pretty much the equivalent of the Superbowl, the job was purposely well done. Some accepted the mistake but thought the best way to handle it was indeed to claim it was a clever stunt.


A study ran by Alan Sorensen (Stanford) showed that when a known author was subject to bad critics, his book’s sales would plummet. He also realised that the opposite was happening for unknown authors. We can therefore claim that bad publicity actually helps unknown brands. That school of thought can be supported by the fact that a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 people whereby a satisfied one will only tell 3. If it’s noise you need, then maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So, is there really no such thing as bad publicity? I don’t think there is a straightforward answer. It’s all down to the specific brand and publicity (no doubt that if Kanye West would have rapped a teenager, that controversy wouldn’t have helped him sell albums, let alone that he’d be writing it from jail). If one thing is sure though, it is that all publicity is good if it is intelligent, whether bad or good and depending on the way it is handled. Grey managed to be famous and to get people talking, Apple managed to reinforce its strong position and to seize the opportunity to trash its competitors, and some politicians managed to gain their audiences’ sympathy using auto-derision. Is all publicity good publicity? No, but all publicity is good if it is intelligent.

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self-derision sells.

How many times how we laughed out loud in front of a humourist mocking himself on stage? If an ignorant might claim that the human race became massively masochist, the wise will see that most of these humourists became famous and loved by that same public laughing at their “misery”. Is it because we relate to these people in some way, thus are laughing at ourselves unconsciously? Or is it because we feel some kind of sympathy for these characters? In any case, I’m far to be the only one who saw underlying marketing opportunities in self-mockery.

The most obvious opportunity was in Politics. If a humourist can make himself famous nationwide by simply mocking himself, then why would a Politician with no clear programme not have a go at it? French President Jacques Chirac admitted in an interview that his success in the 1995 elections against Edouard Balladur was partly due to the derision given to his character in the 2.6M-audience French Muppet show Les Guignols de l’Info. The show presented him as a no-programme-man lazy moron, who only wished he’d finally be elected against Balladur, who betrayed him. This made him the most famous and liked Muppet in the show ahead of presenter PPDA for the 2 years ahead of the election.


It wasn’t long before smart and edgy ad agencies pitched to convince some of their clients to try themselves at this exercise. Kapferer found that VW “style of expression is one of humour as shown in its attitude of self-derision, false modesty and impertinence towards competitors as well as in the use of paradox”. Gillette latest spoof ad is a more recent example where the brand takes one of its consumer’s insights i.e. “one day they’ll be selling us 10-blade razors” and embraces that cynicism by humouring themselves, as well as creating some buzz over their brand equity.

So, smart or risky exercise? Since not many brands are risking themselves to such a niche practice, one could argue that differentiation could be a good motive to such positioning – bearing in mind the products (or people in the case of our politician) concerned usually hardly differ from their competitors. Rod A. Martin stated that ‘‘they are making use of the peripheral rather than the central route to persuasion”. That said, relevance is key and in most cases the antidote becomes the poison. Ask Chirac what he thought of his Muppet in Les Guignols de l’Info in the 2002 elections…

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