If you think this review is going to be just another bout of political correctness, you're about to be disappointed. It's intended to demonstrate just how powerful a commercial or a campaign can be if we broaden our thinking to include people from ethnic minorities.
In short, it's about using every tool in the kit to do it and if that means playing the race card, well, hell, let's do it.
Let's face it, while some of us were looking the other way, Britain became a multi-cultural society, very much like the US. Which means there's a whole lot more people we should be selling to. So, looking at a product from a multi-cultural point of view might just possibly be a cracking idea.
Take, for example, that Peugeot commercial. The one set in India where an Indian guy decides to remodel his old car into a Peugeot by driving it into a wall and having an elephant sit on it. Yes, that one. Well, to be quite honest, I wished I'd done it. It's brilliant. It made me laugh out loud alongside, it seems, the rest of the populace. Most of us thought it fresh, ingenious and funny. None of us thought: "Ho! - that's so very Indian and I don't like Indian." What came as a really big surprise, though, was the fact that it was made in Italy. The last time I looked, Italy didn't even have an Indian restaurant. So how in God's name did they come up with the idea? Ah ... it must be that rare commodity ... a different way of thinking. The sort of thinking that suggests there is more than one type of culture on the planet, and that we should be plundering them liberally.
If you want a good example of cultural plundering, check out the first "whassup?" commercial for Budweiser. The ad comprises four blokes in different houses drinking Budweiser and telephoning each other saying "whassup?".
The entire ad gave no quarter to political correctness. It was black, and I mean deep-down black. Allow me to explain.
It was taken straight from the 'hood and not dressed up for commercial use. In other words, the guys in the commercial were totally believable, resulting in a commercial that was very fresh and left everyone ranting "whassup?". If that's not sell, what is?
As far as I'm concerned, the viewing public is always ready to embrace the new, whether it be fashion, music, film or food. When it comes to advertising, so should we.
Peter Souter told me that BT sees itself as a world brand and so, when it advertises, it tends to reflect a broader ethnic base. "The wedding" commercial is my favourite of all the BT ads. It's funny and spine-shatteringly accurate to the point that I think I've been to it. Many things ring true; people rushing about in a profusion of pink and peach, and then driving a mere 50 yards to the church in a stretch limo. To me the ad screams: "I understand the people I am hoping to attract."
I think most clients could take a leaf out of BT's book and think of themselves as world brands. But, of course, not all of us have to go for the global domination thing. When Mother created the ad for Batchelors Super Noodles (the one where the guy says to his girlfriend he's starving and wasting away. She gets up and cooks him Super Noodles, and when she comes back he's taken off his clothes and arranges them in such a fashion they appear as if he's wasted away), they could've quite easily made it a white couple. But they made them black. It didn't make the commercial any funnier or any more creative, but what it did do was make it stand out more than the average ad. It's probably why I like it so much.
If a brand wants street cred, make someone with huge amounts of street cred your spokesmen. Simple, yes? (If you've got the guts, that is.)
Bartle Bogle Hegarty's ad for Barclays did just that. Samuel L Jackson walking through a rain-swept landscape, uttering something about a pig had me transfixed and open mouthed. I couldn't understand a word mind you, but his body language, style and, let's face it, his blackness, made these commercials not only one of the most successful in the financial category, but one of the most distinctive.
As you can tell from these few ads I've been rabbiting on about, there are no rules for doing ads with ethnic minorities in them. We should all just try to be more creative, open minded, observant and aware of the society we now live in. And used with a little common sense we might all start making better commercials.