advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ads that suck - and work.

What are we doing here people. Winning awards? Moving product off the shelf? Both? Trying to do both? Of course it’s always the latter, right? I thought about this yesterday as I was riding NJ Transit’s spiffiest rail coach and saw the same ad I’ve seen almost every day, (for Heritage For The Blind).

I’m sure they do great things for the blind. But man, talk about feelings of total guilt on the ride home as I stare at a blind kid. Nice. Only thing missing was the tagline that told me I’d end up in hell if I looked away. (Oh I’m going, but not for that.) And I like shock value, don’t get me wrong. See the topic here of PSA work that pushes the limit creatively. This isn’t about guilt though. The ad reminded me of some past work that was absolutely suck-ass, but, damn if it wasn’t effective.

For anyone not familiar with him, the second example above is Bob. Bob runs Bob’s Discount Furniture, naturally. What else would a Bob run. Originally, he started in CT, but his demon seed is now spreading across the Northeast like bird flu. His infamous call to action is an all-in-one late-night used car dealer shout and wave: ‘COME ON DOWNNNNNN!’

If all you have to spend is $399, Bob’s your uncle and Bob’s your guy. Sofa. Loveseat. Chairs. Tables. Lamps. Children. Pets. Get them all for one low price. The ads are everywhere. And you know what? They work.

He became the number one discount furniture guy because people came on down. Screw the Clio. Bob moved product. Lots of it. Later ads would have him tone down the shouts, but, that to me is usually a sign of a new agency coming on board and trying to reshape the image of a client who made it big. (Even though that image is one the agency hates for being too tacky, and is actually what got him his success.)

So what are we doing here people? What’s the real purpose of advertising? It seems clients like Bob are clueless when it comes to what looks good, which drives creatives nuts. But the Bobs of the world do know a thing or two about marketing. Which we creatives are supposed to know a thing or two about as well. The problem comes when the world of effective suckitude crosses paths with cool ad creative. A coincidence that both Bob and PT Barnum call CT their home? Doubtful. This way to the furniture egress.

Tangental to the topic, but I’m not against CEOs doing their own ads either, even if they’re safe spots like with Scott Blum or vacuum guru James ‘I don’t need no stinking ad agency’ Dyson. The simple and quiet ads work as effectively as Bob’s. Will they win awards? Hell, anything’s possible. But if they do, the world should stop rotating.

And yet, I doubt they could care less. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about moving product... or is it? One thing’s for sure, next time I think about donating my car, guess what ad I’ll remember.

Informal pop quiz, hotshots: Bob was your client forever. His billings would allow you to have your dream home, vacation at the Cape and it put your kids through college – yet you would never win an award. Would you say yes? Because there are some agency peeps in CT living that dream thanks to Bob. (For the record, my answer is no. I’m too shallow to pass on a shot at a Clio.)

And don’t even get me started on Tom Carvel.

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Anonymous said...

Demon seed?!? LOL, where does this stuff come from? Wait, don't answer that...

Anonymous said...

Usually starts after 1:00 am. I don’t fight it because resistance is futile.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd take his account in a heartbeat because my job is to help his enterprise succeed. If I want to pleasure myself, I can swing that at my own expense. I know, it sounds so uncreative, but here's how I've come out after being beaten about the head and shoulders by the biz. The point of creativity is problem solving, specifically, the client's problems. If that problem solving creativity is clever and entertaining enough for fellow ad dweebs to admire, great. If not, so what? Clever, edgy, hip, breakthrough ads and campaigns are transitory things, and nothing to hang one's identity on Helping a biz succeed, maybe, depending on the biz. Damn, I sound old skool. Oh, yeah. I'm old. Nice topic, Logoed one.

concha said...

the real purpose of advertising is for a bunch of fukwits (myself included) to make a paycheck cause we're not quite good enough to get a book deal or sell our paintings.

Anonymous said...

every: I'm old-school too, but a steady diet of living room Sunday flyers would make me go all Jack Nicholson-like in The Shining.

Anonymous said...

concha - welcome. Mi blog su blog, or something like that.


I don't paint so I can't compete there. Painting teacher at UConn hated me for not taking painting. Told me I would never be a designer without his painting class.

He’s dead now and I'm bitter. So it's worked out pretty good so far.

So the closest thing I can compare to success in non-advertising pursuits is trying to put together a halfway decent screenplay.

Even there I've gotten my ass kicked a few times. But we still keep going, right?

I have no other choice 'cuz I‘m not quitting. Unless I win the lottery, then lock up when you leave. I'll be in the Islands.


HighJive said...

you shouldn't feel guilty about the donate-your-car ad. the place actually gives the cars to the blind kids and lets them stage crazy crash-up derbies. it's a blast for the little blind ones.

ok, now i'm going to hell too.

Anonymous said...

"it's a blast for the little blind ones."

Oh no you didn't.

Lol. But hey, how would they know. (Guess I am going to hell for this ad after all.)

See? This is why I should drive.

Scamp said...

Am in terrible pain from Concha's comment.

I guess the truth hurts...

p.s. one could probably judge from the look of the fabric patterns at Bob's that he is blind too

darryl ohrt said...

I once pitched Bob's. Naively thinking that our brilliant creative could revolutionize their brand. That meeting itself was pretty funny in retrospect - but one of the things I learned was that (at the time, anyway) they handled all of agency functions in-house. Strangely, their in-house producers were proud of their work.

And I believe that Bob knows his success isn't due to brilliant creative - but instead ruthless placement. They suck at creative - but the've killed on placement. Place the most creative ad in the wrong place, and nobody sees it. Place a crappy ad in the right place, and everyone sees it. And now we all see Bob's ads. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

There's so much bitterness and cynicism here that...I...I get all weepy from the comraderie. Thank goodness it's funny cycnicism and not that stuff with the bitter aftertaste. Concha, I only wish all ad dweebs had failed or unfinished creative labors of love. The ones that scare me are the ones who think their freakin' ads will flourish in eternity as revered artistic works. I will fall on my sword for this FSI! I'll do it!" Darryl has a great point -- repetition rather than brilliant creative used to make successful advertising. Repetition was a magical and easy tool to wield on TV until commercial skipping shot holes in it. When I dredge the ads nearest consciousness, there are shreds of ads past floating untethered and comingling in horrible ways. I notice very few are there because of great creative. They're called up because they were bludgeoned into my brain , forced into the vulnerable cerebral convolutions at 200 psi by brutal repetition -- until I imagine the Jolly Green Giant beatin' the crap out of the Pillsbury doughboy while Mr. Clean looks on. Wait a minute...Darryl, is that Larry Tate as your icon? An inspired choice!

czeltic girl said...

Hell, yes, I'd take that account. But then again, I'm coming from the production end of the process, so while I'm still technically a creative, it's with a little "c." We don't get awards down on this end of the food chain.

Doing that work on a consistent basis would likely make me a little batty, though. And really, after staring at Bob ads all day, every day, I think you'd start hitting that slippery slope down into thinking it's ok to maybe also do some direct marketing materials.