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Adland Diaries: the good, the bad and the ugly

Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai

A trip down the Sheikh Zayed Road seems more like a walk through a nursery school corridor, writes Scott Feasey.

February 25, 2013 1:32 by

Adland’s a funny place, where half the population either look like aging vampires or Gucci models, hell-bent on wearing sunglasses whatever time of day, and the other half like 14 year-old skateboard reprobates with attention deficit disorder.

I was once offered a job at a major network where the rather good-looking and suave Client Services Director finished the interview asking if I was ‘ready to join the Gucci boys’.  Slightly confused, as Gucci wasn’t on their client list, he proudly informed me that was what his team was known as, due to their matching Gucci suits.  Not surprisingly I passed on their offer and started my own agency, where the work, and not our attire, would be what people talked about.

The work produced in GCC Adland varies greatly and it’s most often a case of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Some days a trip down the Sheikh Zayed Road seems more like a walk through a nursery school corridor.  Bright images of mums, dads and kids smile back at you, accompanied by simple and obvious headlines. “Ahmed, aged 8, uses x soap brand”.  Although, that is clearly an insult to the kids, as I am sure they gave more thought to their work than most of the creators of the sizeable billboards shouting out the latest reason why you should buy something.

Okay let’s review what happened this week.  The Good, the Bad and the Harlem Shake is this week’s offering.

An example of The Good is the recent work from Emirates NBD and their ATM (Awesome Travelling Machine) whizzing around malls. It’s a great and fun example of how to create content that gets your brand talked about and your point across. Both client and agency have realised that the average consumer is actually human.  I know that may seem strange to hear if you are in marketing, but yes consumers laugh, they cry, they lie and cheat and wait for it…they appreciate humour, even from a bank. At first glance a bank might think this is not for them, but it is, because their consumers are your brother, your mother and your friends.  Seems simple, but you would be surprised how many clients forget this.

Another Good is the Lifebuoy “Help a child reach 5” ad from India.  As one viewer commented, “It’s the first soap to have made me cry without entering my eye.” It’s a beautiful little ad that highlights the fact that washing your hands before eating can save your life and asks you to get behind the campaign to spread the message.  It works because it’s built on human insights and truth.

The Bad is the Nike ad that is true, but sadly for the wrong reasons. I’m talking about the one that ran just before Oscar Pistorius’s ‘incident’ with his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.  Unfortunately the ad showed the “Blade Runner” shooting out of the blocks with the Headline – “I am the bullet in the chamber”!  Oops!  Well to be more accurate he was the 4 bullets in the Chamber and Reever was the robber in the toilet! But to be honest, it’s not totally Nike’s fault. I mean they really couldn’t have seen this coming, could they?

Our old creative director, and he is old (about 100 years I think) was asked to speak about ambassador advertising at a conference once.  He was meant to follow the Managing Director of a big agency that had just brought together a number of Arabic celebrities in an ad for a soft drink and was extremely proud of his agency’s accomplishments. That was until our CD candidly said that ambassador ads are created by agencies that have clearly run out of all other ideas. You can hear them now he said:  “OK, let’s just get a person our target market likes, and have them drink it – that will do.  What about Britney – they like her don’t they?”

I kind of agree with our old CD, but don’t get me wrong, not all brand ambassador ads are bad.  Use them in the right way and your marketing can be engaging, entertaining and effective.  Take Iris Worldwide’s work with Messi and Adidas or our Ronaldo work for Clear for example – very different from the usual picture of celebrity holding up a boot and smiling.

And finally for the two Uglies for this week; I have to say that I loved the Harlem Shake videos hitting YouTube and how it’s all gone ballistic, but that was last week.  What old and ugly are this week is the amount of brands and companies still trying to jump on the band-wagon. If you want to be a marketing star these days you have to create or spot these opportunities and react quickly. Brands need to pivot and pounce. Or even better they need to be the creators of cultural happenings – turning culture values into culture transactions.

Anyway – I’m off to try and stop the Kipp report doing the Harlem Shake – I hope I’m not too late!


Scott Feasey is MD at iris Middle East and can be reached on [email protected].

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