OPINION: Mills on ... 11 88 88

Remembering phone numbers, eh. How is it that I can remember some from years ago, but not the mobiles of friends, family and sometimes even my own? Take the old ads for the Evening Standard classified (35 35 000) - still as fresh as yesterday in my mind. And I can hum the jingle too, even though it must be at least 15 years since the ads ran. Or that one for an insurance company, 28 28 00, whose logo was an owl (geddit?). Sadly, its name escapes me.

And then there's the whole new 118 directory enquiries service numbers game. All of which reminds me of that wonderful film a few years ago, starring Guy Pearce as a man who loses his memory. But not all of it.

Pearce's character, Leonard Shelby, suffers from a condition called anterograde amnesia, meaning he cannot create any new long-term memories. This is a bit of problem, since Shelby is trying to retrace his steps to discover his wife's killer. Was it him? He just doesn't know. The twist, of course, is that he's already avenged his wife, but doesn't remember. And the name of the film? Er, Memento, but I had to look it up.

Memory, of course, is what the 118 advertising fight is all about. Trouble is that, the antics of the beardy 118 118 runners apart, it's becoming incredibly tedious, so much so that a bit of anterograde amnesia would come as blessed relief.

Nevertheless, it is a breathtakingly one-dimensional advertising task: plant your number in the consumer's mind and there you go because we'll only have room in our memory banks for one 118 number. Brand values? Strictly for the birds and entirely valueless at this stage since this is the advertising equivalent of a land grab. Anyway, who needs brand values when you're talking about something as basic as a directory enquiries service? It's also, by the way, an example of a market where advertising is everything.

One can imagine the winner of the battle could easily snap up an IPA Effectiveness gold.

So now we have the latest advertising contribution from the erstwhile Euro Partners BDDH Uncle Tom Cobbley and All (or whatever they're calling themselves this week) for one of the contenders, 11 88 88. Its proposition is, or was, built around some prancing animated superheroes and a half-price offer. This time we open on a music hall stage, where three people dressed as the numbers grab some instruments and sing 11 88 88 to the tune of Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go. That's it.

It's utter crap, of course, with no redeeming factors. Nor, like Shake 'n' Vac or Ferrero Rocher's "ambassador's party", does it fall into the so-bad-it's-actually-quite-likeable category.

The real question, of course, is whether any of this matters. Conventional wisdom has it that likeability is an essential factor in advertising. All other things being equal, I am more inclined to bank at, say, the Halifax because I like Howard than I am at Barclays if I dislike Samuel L Jackson. But banking is not the same as a directory enquiry service. After all, the sole point of the advertising in the 118 market is to get your number into the consumers' heads and keep the others out. If that's the game, and the naffest, most singalong piece of music you can find helps, then irritating customers to death may turn out to be as effective as charming and entertaining them.

We shall see. I'll put my money on WCRS's 118 118 runners taking home gold for their client, InfoNXX, partly because their ludicrous antics have amused and entertained and partly because they have brilliantly dominated the media landscape from start to finish.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Fat chance.

File under ... T for toilet.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Remind me again ... which ones are

your ads, then?"

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