PERSPECTIVE: The Tory ads show overstating brand value can be risky

Poor Chris Powell and BMP DDB. It seems they are not to receive Saatchi-like credit for Tony Blair’s success. Rightly or wrongly, the Labour campaign will be remembered primarily for not messing up. To a degree this was down to a reluctance to overclaim - for which I suppose we should be grateful. The lesson applies to many advertisers, not least the Tories, who will forever be haunted by the old advertising adage, ’You can’t polish a turd.’

Poor Chris Powell and BMP DDB. It seems they are not to receive

Saatchi-like credit for Tony Blair’s success. Rightly or wrongly, the

Labour campaign will be remembered primarily for not messing up. To a

degree this was down to a reluctance to overclaim - for which I suppose

we should be grateful. The lesson applies to many advertisers, not least

the Tories, who will forever be haunted by the old advertising adage,

’You can’t polish a turd.’



There are many ways to overclaim in ads. Most are a doddle to slip by

the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. Sex is the most obvious, as

in ’buy our product and you’ll get more’. Currently, it’s best seen in

Peugeot ads, so much so that one wonders if Mark Wnek is getting

enough.



The 306 campaign (last year’s and this) has done more to make sex

between consenting marrieds appear attractive than anything the Catholic

Church has managed in centuries. Meanwhile Kim Basinger’s lover in the

406 commercial would rather have that boring car than her. Listen mate,

marry her and trade down. Renault (Megane and Clio), Lee jeans, Gold

Blend, Hellman’s and Carte d’Or are other examples.



Another classic overclaim is to go anti-establishment and associate your

product with the ’street’. Less ’buy this and get laid’, more ’buy this

and be cool’ (which I guess is one step away from the former). Simons

Palmer made some great films for Wrangler when it had the account -

remember ’crosstown traffic’? But urban cool? Wrangler? French

Connection falls into this category. ’FCUK fashion’ is presumably

designed to position it as an anti-fashion victim brand. Oh yeah? Been

into a store lately?



Pepsi is another case in point.



The corporate overclaim can be particularly rewarding. It usually

involves an attempt to appropriate the world, the era, or some higher

emotion.



The all-time classic remains ’the age of the train’. Currently ’above

all, it’s a Rover’ might be considered a fine example. Of course, the

’world’s favourite airline’ and the ’fourth emergency service’ had all

the makings of monster turkeys when conceived, but both British Airways

and the Automobile Association actually forced themselves to live up to

the claims made in their ads.



Which leads neatly to a campaign I fear will be deemed a classic by

advertising old farts of the future. If the RAC can live up to the

claims in its new campaign it will be remarkable, not least because it

will have understood its own ads. If I’m even close, it will have to be

a cross between Greenpeace, Sony, Microsoft and new Labour. So, if I

break down on the motorway (which I won’t, because I’ve got a

Volkswagen), is the RAC telling me that Tony Blair and Bill Gates will

turn up to fix it?



Blimey, why didn’t Chris Powell say so?



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