Poor Chris Powell and BMP DDB. It seems they are not to receive
Saatchi-like credit for Tony Blair’s success. Rightly or wrongly, the
Labour campaign will be remembered primarily for not messing up. To a
degree this was down to a reluctance to overclaim - for which I suppose
we should be grateful. The lesson applies to many advertisers, not least
the Tories, who will forever be haunted by the old advertising adage,
’You can’t polish a turd.’
There are many ways to overclaim in ads. Most are a doddle to slip by
the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre. Sex is the most obvious, as
in ’buy our product and you’ll get more’. Currently, it’s best seen in
Peugeot ads, so much so that one wonders if Mark Wnek is getting
The 306 campaign (last year’s and this) has done more to make sex
between consenting marrieds appear attractive than anything the Catholic
Church has managed in centuries. Meanwhile Kim Basinger’s lover in the
406 commercial would rather have that boring car than her. Listen mate,
marry her and trade down. Renault (Megane and Clio), Lee jeans, Gold
Blend, Hellman’s and Carte d’Or are other examples.
Another classic overclaim is to go anti-establishment and associate your
product with the ’street’. Less ’buy this and get laid’, more ’buy this
and be cool’ (which I guess is one step away from the former). Simons
Palmer made some great films for Wrangler when it had the account -
remember ’crosstown traffic’? But urban cool? Wrangler? French
Connection falls into this category. ’FCUK fashion’ is presumably
designed to position it as an anti-fashion victim brand. Oh yeah? Been
into a store lately?
Pepsi is another case in point.
The corporate overclaim can be particularly rewarding. It usually
involves an attempt to appropriate the world, the era, or some higher
The all-time classic remains ’the age of the train’. Currently ’above
all, it’s a Rover’ might be considered a fine example. Of course, the
’world’s favourite airline’ and the ’fourth emergency service’ had all
the makings of monster turkeys when conceived, but both British Airways
and the Automobile Association actually forced themselves to live up to
the claims made in their ads.
Which leads neatly to a campaign I fear will be deemed a classic by
advertising old farts of the future. If the RAC can live up to the
claims in its new campaign it will be remarkable, not least because it
will have understood its own ads. If I’m even close, it will have to be
a cross between Greenpeace, Sony, Microsoft and new Labour. So, if I
break down on the motorway (which I won’t, because I’ve got a
Volkswagen), is the RAC telling me that Tony Blair and Bill Gates will
turn up to fix it?
Blimey, why didn’t Chris Powell say so?