If it wasn’t obvious already, one of the plethora of BBC radio stations ran an on-line phone-in this week that demonstrated beyond doubt how short Auntie is of material these days.  OK, so at least they were trying and I am sure there was more than a hint of irony in the choice of subject, but to ask viewers to phone in and nominate TV commercials that they were indifferent to was taking things a bit too far.  However, completely missing the point that if you are indifferent to a commercial, by definition, you won’t remember it, people actually called in!

The truth of the matter is that while nobody could have been “indifferent” to the commercials they nominated, there were many examples that were clearly getting up folks’ noses, often because they lacked a clear message or were frankly just awful, and that’s just the kind of waste of client investment that pushes all my buttons!  The worst offenders are commercials that are clearly all about creative ego.  As an ex-creative director myself and mentor to creatives and creative departments in agencies in a number of countries, I’m the first to recognise and understand the importance of great creativity, but, as I find myself saying far too often, great creative work reinforces the commercial message.  It doesn’t disguise or, worse still, contradict it and it certainly doesn’t just clutter thirty-seconds of airtime with wasteful irrelevance.

The reason that there are so many commercials out there that break these basic rules stems from errors or omissions at the very start of the strategy development process.  It amazes me that so many of the organisations I go into still don’t have a clearly defined brand. I’m often told by organisations that they have a strategy, even a brand strategy, only to find that what they have is built on sand.  You simply can’t develop a strategy without first establishing what your brand actually is.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds and involves a level of honesty and self-acceptance that few marketing people seem able to live with, but if you don’t crack this first step, absolutely everything you do from there forward will be compromised and wasteful.

You can’t hope to accurately communicate who you are (your brand character) if you can’t recognise yourself and its essential to the success of your business that you are accurate.  The process of accurately defining brand character is what my Brand Discovery programme is all about.  It also embraces all the processes and tools that ensure you always tell it like it is.  However, there are still a lot of businesses around that are either dishonest, confused about their own identity or just plain crap at communicating it and you can see the results in their advertising every day so my challenge to you is to find the world’s most dishonest advertiser.

You know who I mean.  The advertiser whose commercials or ads leave you saying “Yes, right” with the same commitment that you had when Kraft Foods said they wouldn’t cut the staff count at Cadbury (and then announced the closure of a Cadbury factory within a week of completing the deal).

Wherever in the world you may be, nominate your Pants-on-Fire advertiser by commenting on this post, adding a link to the “evidence” and explain why the piece in question lacks credibility.

Michael Weaver
February 18, 2010

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