TV advertising campaigns: best and worst adverts

By Matt Cornock

Some advertising campaigns have been around for a while now which I think deserve a mention and review here. These adverts can either be classified as very clever or absolutely diabolical. Here we will look at: Specsavers, Compare the Market, Go Compare and Halifax.

Excellent campaign: Specsavers

“Should’ve gone to Specsavers” is now engrained on the minds of pretty much everyone in the UK who has ever watched their TV advert. Their new style adverts began a few years ago with a very clever build up over several months. These early adverts had no sign of the Specsavers brand, but just showed multiple scenarios of people in a small American town losing power (e.g. diner coffee makers going off, record players slowing down, lights going out). No one really knew what was going on, until the following month, the adverts were repeated with the final scene: a electrical lineman cutting through the wrong cable, shortly followed by the usual “Should’ve gone to Specsavers.”

Whilst the adverts style and genre change, the same principle applies of having something obviously bad happening as a result of someone not having had an eye check, often with humorous side effects. By far the funniest is the parody of the Lynx Effect beach advert, which has to be seen to be appreciated (links below). My second favourite is the old farmer with the wistful celtic music who accidentally sheers his beloved sheepdog. However, the new advert with the kid calling to his dad ‘the car’s broken’ after mistaking the garage remote for his RC car control comes in a close third.

Clearly the benefits of this campaign is that it varies, it is funny, it’s simple and hence, it’s memorable.

Compare the Meerkat vs Gio Compario

With the release of the next episode in the Compare the Meerkat saga, I thought it was worth writing about the differences between the two leading insurance comparison websites’ adverts.

Compare the Market have come a long, long way since the days of their original advert where the cars fall into the screen crushing high prices. Their meerkat campaign has lasted quite well, though some people believe it has now run its true course. The new advert states this is the final episode, so perhaps the clever advertising types have realised this. However, I am not one of those people to poo-poo a good campaign and actually enjoy watching the sagas unfold in their 30-60 second mini-epic films about the life history of Aleksandr Orlov and his companion Serghei. The detail and small touches that are put into the characters make these adverts a pleasurable experience.

Of course, where Compare the Market has really made the money is in the merchandising and following of the Meerkat character. As I mentioned in a previous post, any meerkat image or meerkats in zoos are automatically connected with the advert and hence the company. The fact that the branding is so closely tied works well too. Aside from the near identical name, they have reworked their front-to-front pound sign logo to look like meerkats. This is just genius.

As campaigns go, Compare the Meerkat is a gold standard. Compare the Market really exploited the new ways of communicating with people, e.g. via Twitter (where Aleksandr actually replies to people), Facebook groups, an official YouTube channel and merchandise shops. Not to mention a dedicated website which started it all off.

However, where one campaign excels, another is sure to disappoint: Go Compare’s opera signing icon, official known as ‘Gio Compario’ is probably one of the most annoying characters to ever be created in the world of advertising. Not only is the overly-loud shouting off-putting to the casual TV viewer, but the lyrics are often so contrived to rhyme that there is a need to have hard-coded subtitles on the screen. I’m sure the intention was to allow for a sing-a-long approach, however for me I need the subtitles to understand what the message is.

From my point of view, Go Compare’s approach has been one of annoyance rather than excellence. The whole experience is summed up by the final remarks made by supporting characters which have jokes worthy of Christmas crackers: ‘How much do you think he costs? He’s only a tenor.’ and ‘Good sound system.’

I don’t know whether either company has had an increase in revenue, but I can be assured that I’m more likely to buy meerkat merchandise than Gio Compario animated figures. Let’s hope that they don’t release an album of Gio’s Greatest Hits.

Halifax Radio: the floor-sweepings of the advertising world

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my angst at any advert which uses music to sell the product instead of the product being of quality. Over the last eight months, the Great British Public have been subjected to what can only be described as the worst adverts to ever penetrate the ears and retinas of a human being.

Halifax Radio, the latest campaign by the Halifax Bank, shows two or more Halifax employees reading a script over the top of some appropriately lyriced, famous (but very dated) pop songs: Spandau Ballet – Gold, Lightning Seeds – Lucky You, Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby, Stereo MCs – Connected. In essence, the adverts are a video of what takes place when radio adverts are being recorded. However, no radio station since 1987 has produced, played or considered adverts of this nature. Certainly, no radio presenter in their right mind would use the lyrics of a song to punctuate what they are saying. So, with this knowledge in mind, why on earth does Halifax believe that this style of advert when transferred to TV will work? Indeed, the only adverts still using the lyrics of a song to contribute towards the overall advertising message are sofa sales adverts, and even then very tenuously.

The trouble with these adverts, apart from the format, is that it’s very difficult to understand the actual message that’s trying to be conveyed. There is far too much superfluous information being thrown at the viewer, that the key points get lost.

Take for example the Spandau ‘Hi-5’ advert. We have to ignore the extraneous characters, bagels, shots of radio technical equipment before we are thrown into a song and hi-5 sequence which doesn’t connect in any way to the specific message that customers will get money for having a Halifax account. I don’t think the next time people listen to Gold they will think Hi-5 and Halifax.

The ‘Isa Isa Baby’ advert probably has a message somewhere, but the viewer is lost in the awful dubbing of “isa isa” over the top of Vanilla Ice’s lyrics. All that is conveyed is that Halifax do ISAs, like every other bank in the world. Any unique selling point just doesn’t get conveyed.

The final example is of the pure waste of time that is the Halifax ‘Lucky You’ advert. Shots of faders being moved, the presenter nodding her head in time with the music, and for some bizarre reason a whole 15 seconds of advertising time is wasted on shots of a chap bringing in cups of tea only for the presenter to have the mug handle break when she lifts it up. What on earth does that have to do with the unspecified rewards customers are supposed to get? To me it says: ‘get a Halifax account and you get a free mug that breaks when you lift it up.’ We won’t mention the hundreds of pounds worth of repair needed to fix the desk faders which now have tea residue inside them. Candidates on ‘The Apprentice’ could have produced a better advert.

It has to be said that these adverts are annoying and do not help share the message of Halifax (one nice message I extracted from their website in relation to the £5 reward was ‘who says banks don’t say thanks’). It isn’t just me having a rant either, these adverts are slated by practically every person on YouTube, and I actually dive for the TV remote to press the mute button when they come on. These adverts have led me to such dispair that I’m in the process of cancelling my Halifax accounts and moving elsewhere. I implore you to do the same, because as long as Halifax is gaining rather than losing customers, they will continue to output such shocking autrocities on us all.

Summary

Long establised advertising campaigns rely on acceptance of the public. Specsavers, Compare the Market and, to a lesser extent, Go Compare, all have their following and appreciation by TV viewers. These adverts give something back to the viewer as a reward to watching them, whether that be humour, merchandise or a shared annoying song circulating in their head. However, adverts which are not rewarding viewing experiences will disappoint and alienate potential customers. It’s a tricky business, but critically assessing each piece of promotional material will ensure standards are kept high, new frontiers of advertising are exploited and the return on investment is achieved.

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