Media: A Moment with Marquis

Advertising can be thrilling, inventive, witty, irritating, incredible and powerful but it cannot be, absolutely must not be, boring. Which makes the all-too-common phenomenon of the "pub bore ad" the more remarkable.

"Stop me if you've heard this before," the dullard at the bar says. You, of course, have heard it not once before but two, three, four times, though that has never stopped him telling it again. Can there be anything more tedious than a very old, very stale joke?

Bill Bryson, in his Short History of Nearly Everything, points out that even a long life consists of only around 650,000 hours. Not one of those precious hours should be wasted on re-hearing jokes.

Which brings me to the case of Old Ern and the Castlemaine XXXX spot.

The last respects of the popular, but newly deceased, Ern are honoured by burying a case of the aforesaid lager with him, to the consternation of his muckers at the grave side. Wry, Australian looks abound and the ad, though hardly side-splitting, brought a smile to my lips when it first popped up in a break in the Test match coverage.

Like a few other people, I watched rather a lot of the Test, postponing meals and even calls of nature so as not to miss a ball. Up came Old Ern again. And again. And again and again and again. "Stop me if you've heard this before ..." Well, yes actually, about five times now and what was mildly amusing is now making me surprisingly ratty and borderline psychotic.

Someone isn't thinking here. Worrying about the optimal frequency of specific creative treatments does not make the radar at creative agencies any more than it does at media agencies. No-one owns the issue. It falls into the gap between agencies and we end up with the pub-bore syndrome: decent ads being given nausea-inducing repetition.

None of this is to say that a bit of frequency isn't a good thing. A properly phased series of reminders will work wonders and far too many ads are binned too soon because client and agency have seen them dozens of times, while they remain fresh and under-exposed with the target audience - an expensive waste of production budget.

But, since humour is an indispensable ingredient in much TV advertising, would those responsible for funny ads please engage their brains and stop their jokes becoming unfunny by boring us to death with them. Anyone glued to the final Test please note - and e-mail colleagues at offending agencies at once.

- Simon Marquis is the chairman of ZenithOptimedia.

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