Tag Archives: Volkswagen

Things for which I’m grateful #356 – Advertising.


Yes, advertising. Nike,1990s,UK It’s hard to think of an industry more vilified by the general public than advertising. With the possible exceptions of bankers and estate agents. Oh, and insurance companies. We’re all wankers in the public’s eyes. It’s true that I’ve met quite a few charlatans in my time but I’ve also met lots of lovely people whom I admire, respect and have maintained long-lasting friendships. Advertising has given me many happy years coming up with ideas for stuff. Then having them bludgeoned to death by account handlers and clients. I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some fantastically talented directors, photographers, illustrators, writers and art directors. I’ve also had the good fortune to have gone on the odd exotic TV shoot. come-along-gentelman In my 30 years in the ad industry I reckon I’ve only had three decent jobs out of about – actually, I genuinely can’t remember how many jobs I’ve had. The three best agencies I’ve worked for were BRAHM in Leeds, Owens DDB and Chemistry, (both in Dublin). They probably account for about 10 out of my 30 years in advertising. That’s a long time spent working in crap agencies. Of course, young hipsters will think someone like me is past it. I’ve heard a few digital johnnies bleating on about how traditional advertising doesn’t engage in a dialogue with consumers like online media can. Bollocks. As soon as you get a customer thinking about your ad you are engaging in dialogue. Whether that’s via the medium of television, press or on a billboard. Think_Different_poster_billbernbach Just because you have the capacity for a customer to literally respond to your message on social media doesn’t mean you’ve entered into a dialogue with them. In fact, judging by the mass majority of offer/promotion-based ads on social media, I would argue that this is monologue, not dialogue. The key to a successful engagement with a customer is to have an idea that resonates with what’s going on in their life. Without an idea, you have nothing. And, what digital johnnies lack is the ability and experience to come up with big advertising ideas. Of course, there have been one or two great online campaigns. (Old Spice springs to mind.) But not enough. And ad agencies today need to go back to the old ways of doing things but with today’s media and technology. Is it just me, or is there a dearth of good advertising around? interbrew-sheep-small-51151 Advertising is very simple: A great idea should contain two things: An insight into your target audience and a brand/product truth that will match the consumer insight. For example: If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen.

  1. A) ‘If only everything in life…’ = Life is full of ups and downs (consumer insight).
  2. B) ‘…was as reliable as a Volkswagen’. = If all else fails, you can rely on your Volkswagen. (Product benefit).

A + B =     Ta-dah! (Told you it was simple.) It’s often overcomplicated by people using big words to make themselves look more intelligent who try to portray it as a science. Great ideas come from great propositions. Here are a few straplines from yesteryear, when advertising was great. See how many you can match to their brand. (And they’d all translate brilliantly to online media.)

  1. Probably the best lager in the world.
  2. The world’s favourite airline.
  3. Think different.
  4. I bet he drinks…
  5. Good food costs less at…
  6. It is. Are you?
  7. …refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.
  8. Australians would give a … for anything else.
  9. Beanz meanz …
  10. The Ultimate Driving Machine.
  11. Just do it.
  12. Vorsprung durch technic
  13. Reassuringly expensive
  14. It’s a new toy every day.
  15. We try harder.
  16. Happiness is a cigar called…
  17. The cream of Manchester.
  18. Hello Tosh, got a…
  19. You know, when you’ve been…
  20. I smoke ‘em, cos my name’s on ‘em.

That doesn’t mean that every ad campaign needs a strapline. (The Economist being a good case in point.) What a great strapline does is encapsulate the client’s strategy, which each individual concept/execution has to fit into for consistency of message. cream-of-manchester   So my advice to any young whippersnappers out there thinking of a career as an art director or writer is, whatever you do, don’t rock the boat. Tip the fucking thing over. There are too many safe-sailor-suits and bland-brand-bosuns as it is. N.B. None of the examples of great work I’ve shown here are mine.

Addendum:

Of the places of work I have really enjoyed working, I would have included TBWA Manchester – a really great team of people and a cracking account to work on. But, as I was only there a wet weekend, it seemed a bit of a stretch to include it. For the all too brief period of time I was there, I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Filed under Advertising, Brand, Comedy, Creativity, Cross of Iron, Design, Digital, Film, Ideas, Inspiration, Photography, Strategy

The Art of the 48 sheet poster


Addendum bit:

The original post is below, but here is the proof I’ve been searching for. The offending VW ad. This is a DPS version rather than the 48 sheet I was banging on about. The only difference between the two is the addition of some body copy.

Cross of Iron? Most definitely not.
Creative Court Martial? Get the blindfolds out.

What were they thinking? Obviously not a lot.

Original post:

I’ve been searching Google for a pic I wanted to show you of an ad I abhor. But I haven’t come up trumps.

Then I thought, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t have a copy of it as it is so mind-numbingly dull, I could describe it to you.

The only problem I’ve been wrestling with is that it was done by one of the greatest ad agencies in the world for one of the greatest brands in the world.

Agency: DDB
Client: Volkswagen
Brand: New Golf Cabriolet

Now let’s start by saying: I love DDB.
I also love Volkswagen.

And I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked on the latter while I was at the former.

The reason this execution has got me so vexed is that I think both brands deserve better.

VW = Great advertising.
DDB = The pioneers of modern day advertising.

In fact, DDB pioneered the industry on brands like Volkswagen in the 60s.

So, what is this blot on the landscape that has offended me so?

Imagine an oblong. (Or rectangle, if you’re so inclined.)
Imagine said oblong in a landscape format.
Imagine this oblong is outside.
Beside a road.
It is made up of 48 sheets of paper. (Actually, it isn’t, it’s 12 what with better printing technology and all that, but the name has just stuck.)
On these 48 (12) pieces of paper is a photograph of a red Golf Cabriolet in front of a nondescript piece of modern architecture.
It’s the sort of picture you might find in a brochure for a new Golf Cabriolet.
It has some words written on it.
We call them: a headline.

Headline: The New Golf Cabriolet.

And that’s it.

Someone had better call in MI6 as I think Al Qaeda are holding the entire planning and creative dept of DDB hostage.

Who, at the agency and client, thought: Yes! You’ve cracked it. That’s just what we’ve been looking for – A picture of the car with the headline: The new Golf Cabriolet.

This execution beggars belief.

Where’s the dialogue?
Where’s the insight?
Where’s the smile in the mind?
Where’s the unique VW TOV?
Where’s the originality we come to expect from VW?

This ad is banal in the extreme and I would love to know how, and why, it ever made it up onto a 48 sheet poster.

Volkswagen deserve better.
And I know DDB can do better.

Here’s one I did a few years back while I was at Chemistry in Dublin. Same brief, different client.

To me, the poster is the Holy Grail of advertising. There is nowhere to hide.

Your thought has to be pure and simple. And above all, it has to be engaging.

Here are a few more examples I’ve done over the years.

There is one other thing that bothers me though. And that is this post is just completely negative.

And I don’t like that.

It’s bad for my karma.

So, in the interest of ending on a more positive note, I thought I’d show you some examples of a master in the art of making posters.

And I’m not talking about Messrs Hegarty, Abbott or Dye.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Brand, Comedy, Cross of Iron, Design, Ideas, Inspiration, Photography, Strategy, Writing