I'm trying to picture the image of a modern day Don Draper, eschewing fine tailoring and liquor for jeans, a sports jacket and sparkling bottled water, sitting down with his latest clients. They're excited to see what this colossus among men has to offer, what paradigm-exploding slogan or concept he's about to bestow upon them to make their brand immortal. At that point, New Age Don gets up and says "So then the man says WONGA! and a bunch of other people tell the audience how to get money for their old mobiles". With a latitude that only reputation can facilitate, the clients give New Don a standing ovation and hail him a genius.
I often think of scenarios like this when I see an advert that makes me wonder how the hell it got on TV. We've come a long way from the stylised days of 1960's Madison Avenue, where comely girls with bathing suits would try and sell you South Carolina tobacco with a reassuring smile that beamed "I smoke 'em all the time, and I'm not even slightly dying!" It's a whole different game now. This is a world of commercial planned obsolescence, where the vast, vast, vast majority of stuff we buy gets winged out within a couple of months, and where the internet has shaped us to think in short sharp shocks, often laden with a large slab of kitsch. In that respect, it makes a lot of sense for certain companies to go down the Kinder Surprise route of woeful or cheap on purpose and reflect that trend of barely-useful transience. Why spend your dosh, readies or indeed wonga, with a grandiose concept when some bloke on YouTube will take your catchphrase and put it on a four minute, sixteen second loop?
Especially when that grandiose concept could be multiple kinds of awful. Take the Evian babies, for example. It was somebody's job to explain that idea out loud, and less forgivably people who get paid about five figures more than me and you nodded their heads thoughtfully at that idea, considering creepy rollerskating babies to be are a bold strategy that appealed to their core demographic.
A similar hole of logic so big you could park an articulated truck into it has recently been created by Club Orange, an Irish brand probably second only to Coke on the market over here. Their most recent offering, which you can see below, has caused a bit of a storm because of its sexist tone. Club, who pride themselves on their orange drink being full of "bits", bludgeon this selling point to death to the extent that you'd wonder if a neon sign saying "WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THEIR TITS LADS, WAHEY!" wouldn't have been more economical. But bad as the flagrant sexism is, the perpetuation of the notion that girls who don't speak English as a first language are intrinsically easy the worst element of it, the fact it's a dire advert is much more offensive.
The problem for advertisers is that it's much harder to get away with that sort of gubbins anymore: consumers just won't take it. The technology that can make a thirty second video a worldwide hit in 22 minutes is the same that can bring them down. A well-placed tweet saying "Company X's customer service is pathetic, avoid" or a Facebook group calling for a boycott can have real repercussions financially, and Club Orange has come under such fire for their artless and charmless take on Willy Wonka. The company who made the ad has claimed it was "tongue in cheek", which doesn't really cut ice. Besides, have you ever actually seen someone put their tongue in their cheek? It makes them look ridiculous.
Advertising is just as much a part of the TV experience as the shows are, and as proved by beautiful French town drivers, a twitchy face made of people and, my personal favourite, Mr Soft, sometimes they're just as enjoyable. But more channels just doesn't mean more commercials, but more opportunities to avoid them if we think they're gack. New Age Don Draper will have to be on his toes.Suggest a correction