Opinion: Delaney On ... Novelty Value

It’s new. It’s improved. It’s different. In one form or another these have been the most powerful and, therefore, the most ubiquitous advertising claims of the past 100 years or so. But, in a world where new products are being launched with metronomic frequency - I already know that I wouldn’t be able to check out every groovy new website, unless I live to be 150 - I wonder whether novelty is starting to lose some of its legendary power.

It’s new. It’s improved. It’s different. In one form or another

these have been the most powerful and, therefore, the most ubiquitous

advertising claims of the past 100 years or so. But, in a world where

new products are being launched with metronomic frequency - I already

know that I wouldn’t be able to check out every groovy new website,

unless I live to be 150 - I wonder whether novelty is starting to lose

some of its legendary power.



Where the ’shock of the new’ was generally seen by advertisers and

consumers as a universally good thing (New Labour is obviously different

and therefore ’better’ than Old), I think in the new century consumers

will need a lot more than just ’new’ or ’improved’ to get them

interested. And they’ll judge ’new’ claims that turn out not to be all

that different, particularly harshly.



It’s not that people aren’t going to want any new things - though

there’s plenty of evidence that they’re already oversupplied in many

categories - it’s more that they are going to become harder to convince

that they actually need the latest fizzy drink with the chocolate

topping.



Some people react to this by trying to make ’new’ have more value. It’s

presumably why a car launch in the US can’t just say ’new’ any more, it

has to say ’all new’, as in ’the all-new Pontiac Lumbago’ in a desperate

attempt to get everyone to believe that it really is new, honestly.



At the other extreme, food manufacturers are having to come up with

weirder new products to try and tempt people out of their generally

conservative buying habits. If you’ve ever seen or tried ’cheese

strings’ you’ll know what I mean.



And, of course, the digital revolution is compounding the problem with

lots of extravagant claims about how the next ’new, new thing’ (one new

is no longer enough) is going to change our lives for ever, when: a) we

probably don’t want our lives to be changed for ever and, b) it won’t

anyway.



Agencies aren’t necessarily the best at acknowledging that novelty isn’t

necessarily top of the consumers’ wish lists, mainly because most people

in the ad business think that what they make or sell is novelty.

Breakthrough strategies and ’mould-breaking’ creative work is the goal.

But as we know, consumers, damn them, often don’t want to be led too far

from home. What they often like best, in ads and in products, is a bit

of novelty wrapped around a lot of familiarity.



Something exemplified by the TCP poster, ’Tastes as foul as it has

always done’, with its challenging blend of reassurance, familiar

phrasing and honesty about the product.



It’s possible for TCP to do this because it’s a well-established brand

with a long-lasting relationship with its consumers. It relies not on

novelty but on a lack of change. The ageing population will see to it

that the timeless classics will be just as powerful as fresh-faced

newcomers.



As for the ad industry, I reckon we’ll have to look for new ways of

doing ’new’. Otherwise, novelty will lose its novelty and we’ll all have

to look for ’new’ jobs.



Greg Delaney is the chairman of Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners.



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