As practitioners from Marie Antoinette to Victoria Hervey have
found to their cost, sophistication can be a bloody tricky act to pull
Your window of credibility tends to be incredibly small. Lesser mortals
have the annoying habit of either turning on you because they think
you're too stuck up, or turning their own noses up at your vulgar
attempts to court popularity.
Whether you're a tyrannical queen, titled page-three fodder or a classic
brand, it's a tricky balancing act between broadening your niche appeal
and maintaining your crucial allure. This challenge is particularly
pertinent to Schweppes tonic water - a FMCG product with a genuinely
The Schweppes mixers have several rather pressing challenges to
For starters, there's the decline in cravat-wearing types mixing their
own drinks at home - a problem that the brand shares with the gin market
as a whole. Perhaps more worrying, though, is the fact that those of us
still draining the odd long glass of gin or vodka have decided that a
mixer is, after all, just a mixer. It's not the reason we're having the
drink and cheap supermarket tonic water will do just fine.
Schweppes needs to persuade the great unwashed that it pays to be
discerning in your drinking habits and so Mother has asked readers to
engage in some discerning of their own. We're supposed to consider some
"shocking" images, study them and eventually work out that we're not, in
fact, looking at Camilla Parker Bowles preparing for a royal wedding -
or Margaret Thatcher comforting Jeffrey Archer in prison. Hey presto,
we've worked out the difference between an imitation and the real thing
- and wasn't it rewarding?
Coca-Cola clearly hopes that engaging its audience, rather than simply
showing it images of discerning, sophisticated people, will make this
work accessible to a broader swathe of the population. As a result,
these ads are running on a media schedule that mixes Vogue and Esquire
with Hello! and OK! and gives mass-market exposure. It also fits with
Coke's intention of moving its brands away from TV. If it can persuade
us all to play along with its game then it'll have pulled it off
I think there's very little chance of that, however. Mother has sold
itself completely on the work of Alison Jackson - a photographer who's
in vogue with the arthouse crowd at the moment. In doing so, it's
sticking to the rules laid out by the high-fashion brands such as
Mulberry - sophisticated press ads should look like art, with branding
kept to a minimum.
Mother has assumed that Jackson's faked paparazzo photography will be as
stimulating for the average drinker as it doubtless is for those who go
to art galleries seeking it out. Unfortunately, it's wrong. These images
aren't eye-catching enough to grab our attention - and the scenes they
show aren't as shocking as someone clearly thinks they are. Worse, it's
far too obvious that we're not really looking at Camilla Parker Bowles
or Jeffrey Archer. Readers aren't going to be disturbed or engaged-
they're just going to wonder what the point of it all is and swiftly
turn the page.
This leads to another problem. If we can't be bothered to work out the
agenda of these photographs, then we're simply going to associate the
brand with what we see in front of us. If Schweppes wants to re-energize
the image of tonic water (and the drinks that it's mixed with), then
surely the last person they want in their ads is a member of the
Dead cert for a Pencil? No celebratory G&Ts for Mother.
File under? Sch for Schloppy thinking.
What would the chairman's wife say? Was the camera not focusing