CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Savvy advertisers intend their ads to play to the media

By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 18 October 1996 12:00AM

Being at home, taking in ads as a consumer, is weird. Simply absorbing them in the way they were intended always leaves me bemused by much subsequent press coverage. Sometimes it’s that unremarkable ads actually receive any press coverage at all, sometimes it’s a cause of wonder that the media is so compliant in swallowing the spin-doctors’ angle, and most often it’s a problem recognising that the ad I’ve consumed is the one being written about.

Being at home, taking in ads as a consumer, is weird. Simply absorbing

them in the way they were intended always leaves me bemused by much

subsequent press coverage. Sometimes it’s that unremarkable ads actually

receive any press coverage at all, sometimes it’s a cause of wonder that

the media is so compliant in swallowing the spin-doctors’ angle, and

most often it’s a problem recognising that the ad I’ve consumed is the

one being written about.



The new Peugeot 306 film, featuring a thirtysomething couple apparently

reminiscing about their frolicsome pre-parenthood days, is a perfect

example. It’s a charming, stylish film, shot with great timing and wit,

to the accompaniment of a superb soundtrack. I’ve seen it several times

over the past few days, so it’s just as well that I’m in the target

market. I liked it a lot - the characters are sympathetic and the car

appears very attractive.



Then, suddenly, it’s on Radio 4, Talk Radio, and most of page three in

the Daily Express. Peterborough man is ‘outraged’. In the Express, the

Church of England said it would be watching the Peugeot ad carefully to

make sure it met decency standards, while on Radio 4 a vicar had already

been roped in to say: ‘Tsk, adults, even parents, do get up to other

pleasurable activities, you know.’



Oh, I nearly forgot - in case you haven’t seen it - the things the

couple get up to include: kissing under water, dressing up in rubber and

squirting each other with water pistols, a pillow fight, and being

caught by a policeman getting steamy in the back of a car. This last

activity passed so quickly in the ad that I was grateful to my church-

going mother-in-law for pointing it out to me. She thought the film

charming, aunty Jane thought it amusing. Granted, it’s an unusually sad

family that is forced to watch ads by a bemused advertising journalist,

but I couldn’t raise a murmur of disquiet. It did spark off a lively

debate about the pros and cons of snogging underwater, though.



I guess there will be a few complaints - not least because the seeds of

unease have now been planted in people’s minds. This forces me to

revisit the sentence at the top of this column about ‘simply absorbing

them in the way they were intended’. This assumption is incorrect on two

levels: first, we no longer take in ads through their paid-for media

alone - they develop a life of their own through editorial coverage;

second, this is now the way savvy advertisers intend their ads to be

consumed. This situation will persist as long as journalists have ever

more blank space or airtime to fill. The ad industry should enjoy its

good fortune - it’s all a darn sight easier than the old days of praying

that your catchy Shake ’n’ Vac jingle would catch on.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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