Allow me to luxuriate in a moment of self-indulgence. About six
months ago, I wrote a column that was pretty rude about BMP DDB’s
campaign for boo.com which, until its recent demise, was described as
Europe’s best-funded start-up.
You know the campaign - the one with the geeks rushing around a
basketball court and so on. I didn’t much like the ads. I certainly
didn’t understand them. But what really bothered me was the fact that
they failed to explain clearly what boo did.
As luck would have it, the column appeared on the very day of BMP’s
annual knees-up for Campaign. Cue much joshing from the assembled BMP
creatives (not to mention grossly disloyal colleagues from the magazine)
and insinuations that I was too old and untrendy for such a streetwise
brand. Well, sorry guys.
Of course, it’s unfair to put all the blame for boo’s downfall on the
advertising. Poor financial management, technology failures and
difficulties with stock control all played a part. Still, going by the
old adage that nothing kills off a bad product faster than good
advertising, it would be fun to speculate how much earlier boo would
have gone under had its advertising been any good. January probably.
While I’m in perverse mode, here’s another conundrum. Was boo’s
advertising so bad because it had too much money? I mean, if you’re
tight for money you can’t afford advertising that doesn’t get your
message across. Boo, on the other hand, had about pounds 20 million and
clearly took the view that looking edgy, cool and radical was more
important than making its proposition clear.
Not that it will be much consolation, but boo is not the only dotcom
that may be suffering from this affliction. There are times when I’m
very grateful that I can turn to my copy of Campaign for an explanation
of an ad. Take Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy’s poster for Self Trade,
which asks: ’Can you spot the five dogs in this picture?’ above a
picture of, er, five dogs. Actually I found six - if you include the
idea, that is.
But I had to read the story (page 7 last week if you’re stuck too) in
order to understand what Self Trade was all about. Call me stupid, but
doesn’t that defeat the object of a poster?
Similarly, Moonfruit, which is that very strange ad with some naked
people doing bottom painting at the local art college.
Apparently, Moonfruit brings communities of like-minded people together
whatever their passion.
However, when it comes to the jet-set duck in the Travelstore ads, I am,
I’m afraid, utterly lost for words. If there’s anybody out there who
understands it, please, please put me out of my misery. Actually, on
second thoughts, don’t. I’ve been to travelstore.com and, frankly, I’m
not that interested.
So what’s the answer? Well, somewhere in the excitement most of these
dotcom advertisers seem to have forgotten the basic fact that they’re
all in their launch phase. And what do you do when you’re launching?
Why, you tell people what you do. Period. Until you’ve got that message
across in word and deed (the creative execution as well as an endline),
there’s no point in doing anything else.
Dotcoms that point to high awareness figures should not be fooled.
Awareness comes with big budgets, but it doesn’t necessarily equal
knowing what a site does. And that’s where it all has to start.