It goes without saying, however, that in pursuit of one of these two goals, it is quite possible to end up with an ad that is entertaining without being silly (Nike's "puddles" ad), truthful without being funny (Vodafone Live!), or funny without being truthful in the literal sense (Egg's "Brilliant Industries"). But what happens when you get an ad that is just plain silly and, if I can put it like this, in a stupid, dumbed-down way? Answer: any kudos that might attach to the product is instantly stripped away.
Take the Ogilvy & Mather commercial currently on air for the Ford Fiesta.
In our house, ad breaks are a signal for a fight for the remote control.
I want to watch the ads (sad, but true); they want to zap away. It's a measure of how bad the Fiesta ad is that I am now in the zapping club.
No doubt you will have seen it. An office worker pretends to have measles by putting lipstick spots on his face, thus duping his gullible boss into giving him a day off. A female colleague volunteers to take him to the doctor. But it's a cunning excuse to drive their red Fiesta. Next day, they are back - but with suntans. Boss does suspicious double-take. "Get out more," an endline says which, if the viewer interpreted it literally, seems like an invitation to ignore the ad - not that you need one.
Just as all novels are variants on one of seven basic plotlines, so all car advertising seems to use one of six strategies: 1) cool engineering (Audi/BMW/VW); 2) lots of car for your money (Skoda/Seat/Rover); 3) safety and family (Mondeo/VW/Volvo); 4) cute and loveable (Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio, Honda Jazz); 5) it's just such fun to drive so you'll do anything to find an excuse (VW Bora, Mazda MX-5, Mini, Corsa); and 6) four-wheel-drive tourism, also known as mashing up areas of outstanding natural beauty (Land Rover, Jeep).
True aficionados of car ads will argue for a seventh template: Peugeot, which mines such deep psycho-sexual themes that only Freudian analysts have the courage to go there.
For reasons best known to themselves, Ford and O&M have chosen to employ strategy 5. Perhaps this is because they can't think of anything else to say (nothing wrong with that) or perhaps because, if you're targeting the 21- to 30-year-old urban single demographic, that's the message that has most resonance. Again, no problem with that, but compared with others in the same category this execution is lamentable. According to my What Car? directory, the Fiesta is in the supermini category, putting it up against, among others, the Yaris, Jazz, Punto, Polo and Corsa. In engineering terms, it's at the top of its class. In advertising terms, it's left at the starting grid. Just take the Corsa.
The strategy is the same (it's fun to drive), but the executions are miles apart. DLKW's hide-and-seek ad, while entertainingly silly, doesn't treat the viewer like a moron. Nor, incidentally, do the ads for the Yaris, Polo or Punto.
So, if I was in the market for a supermini, why would I put the Fiesta on my shopping list? Possibly because it's a good car, but the advertising doesn't tell you that. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. Put it this way: would you buy a Fiesta if it meant people thought you'd been influenced by the advertising? Thought not.
Dead cert for a Pencil? You are joking.
File under ... I for insulting.
What would the chairman's wife say? "Someone needs to get out more, and
it isn't the consumer."