THE BOOK OF LISTS: The 10 Great ads that bombed in research

1. Heineken.

No, it isn't apocryphal. Yes, it really did bomb in research. In a

classic case of a great execution failing because a strategy was

(wrongly) found to be off-target, it was recommended that the

policeman's feet execution not be made because refreshment was not

"relevant" to the lager market.

2 Boddington's.

The canned product was launched regionally, at first in the West

Country. The initial research gave a lukewarm reaction to the product,

the strategy, and the advertising idea. Full house. But the researcher,

tempted by the theory that the advertising would be liked and talked

about by opinion-formers, ignored all of the findings.

3. BT.

The Maureen Lipman campaign nearly never got made. Research had said

that Beattie, being the stereotypical Jewish grandmother who can never

stop talking, was the one person who could never get people using the

phone more. In fact, research suggested that she was likely to depress

calling volumes, particularly among higher-calling women, who were

likely to distance themselves from her behaviour.

4. Audi.

The original research into the "Vorsprung durch technic" campaign lacked

the hugely ironic Geoffrey Palmer voiceover. Without this, the campaign

was felt to take itself too seriously and actually exacerbate

perceptions of Audi drivers trying to get down to the pool first. More

German than the most German BMW driver. So, the Palmer voiceover was

added and all pomposity removed.

5. Marmite.

People fall into two categories. They either love it or hate it. There

is no in between. One of the ways of making fans even more passionate

about the brand is to show its haters really hating it. This is what the

advertising does. So you could argue that Marmite advertising's success

is down to one key group of people detesting the ads.

6. Heinz Salad Cream.

The ideas behind the recent relaunch campaign were initially felt not to

be "very warming, very motherly, very Heinzy". Given that the brand was

outdated, and peripheral to most modern meal occasions, a radically new

role and tone of voice needed to be shown in the new advertising. So

perhaps it was not surprising that the ideas originally bombed. What was

surprising was that the original report was ignored, and the advertising

got made.

7. B&H.

The surrealistic Swimming Pool ad was felt to be ahead of its time. It

was certainly ahead of the researcher, who concluded that "without a

line, people wouldn't know what to make of it". So the main point of the

campaign, that as a smoker you have a slightly different take on life,

went straight over his head.

8. Apple.

The "1984" commercial's target audience was primarily made up of

independent thinkers. The trouble was that, because of their very

nature, it proved difficult for them to reach a consensus. Because they

couldn't get to a common view on "1984", it was only because of a

particularly headstrong client and agency team that the ad ever got


9. Cinzano.

The Rossiter/Collins campaign was, after the event, found to be so

humorous and involving that people thought it was for Martini. Great

cinema, yes, effective, maybe not. This was endorsed by developmental

research, which said that the medium got in the way of the message.

10. RSPCA.

The Dead Dogs poster campaign courted controversy on purpose. When the

potential power of a horrific image was fully understood, the decision

was taken to deliberately provoke a negative reaction from the target

audience of doggie lovers. People were adamant this advertising should

not be made. The RSPCA made it and successfully got banned from Crufts.


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