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
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
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
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.