OPINION: MILLS ON MARKETING

I suppose it was entirely predictable that within a week of Unilever launching its first corporate TV campaign to promote Wall’s ice-cream, the wea-ther should turn into winter. Shame about all those TVRs going down the drain. You’d have thought any media buyer worth its salt would have checked the weather forecasts first.

I suppose it was entirely predictable that within a week of

Unilever launching its first corporate TV campaign to promote Wall’s

ice-cream, the wea-ther should turn into winter. Shame about all those

TVRs going down the drain. You’d have thought any media buyer worth its

salt would have checked the weather forecasts first.



More pertinently, however, Easter seems to have brought on a glut of

corporate ad campaigns for fmcg manufacturers. After Unilever came

Fox’s, which is promoting the idea that if only we all dunked our

biscuits together, society would be a better place, even on tower-block

council estates.



Now, an early candidate for turkey of the year, we have the Nescafe

special.



Coffee, if I understand this ad right, brings world peace. This 90s

version of I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing outdoes the schmaltz of

the original.



And there isn’t even a decent tune.



But what are these companies trying to establish? The idea is to convey

a sense of size and importance, the corporate equivalent of puffing up

your chest in a way that says: ’Oi, consumer, you can trust anything

that carries our name.’ Or, less generously, you could look at it

another way and say such umbrella campaigns are a good way of supporting

the weaker brands in an extensive portfolio - in Nescafe’s case, Cap

Colombie and Blend 37.



Either way, there’s something very 80s and self-indulgent about such

advertising. The real danger, however, is that it just becomes a generic

for the sector. The Wall’s ad, for example, just promotes ice-creams,

without telling us why Wall’s is better. Ditto Fox’s and Nescafe. If I

owned rival brands I’d say: ’Thanks. Keep spending.’



As anybody who’s ever seen the English male abroad en masse knows, we

are an embarrassment compared with our well-dressed continental

cousins.



From the nylon shirts to the socks and sandals, you can spot an

Englishman a mile off. At lunch-times, King Street, Hammersmith, seems

to be peopled by men who make John Major look like, well, an Armani

model.



No wonder, then, that the British Clothing Industry Association wants to

do something about it - and good luck to it. If along the way, shops

such as Marks & Spencer and Selfridges sell a load more clothes, that’s

fine by me.



But they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and

there’s something that smacks of the nanny state about this

initiative.



It’s Cool Britannia by the back door.



So why is the average British male so badly dressed? Some might blame

those very institutions that are trying to change things - the high

street shops - for perpetrating so many fashion crimes. But that is to

misunderstand the psyche of the target audience. British men of a

certain age and type like to dress badly. They regard it as their

inalienable right to wear clothes that do not fit or match. There are

others (like me) whom you could clothe from head-to-toe in designer gear

and we’ll still look scruffy. It’s just the way we’re made.



Nice try, guys, but remember the old saying: ’You can lead a horse to

water but you can’t make it drink.’



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