23 July, 2007

Grandma’s Virtual Kick to the Groin

Developing creative for a client last week led to a discussion with one of my fellow writers here at Renegade. Matt held strong in the opinion that he wanted to maintain the sophistication within his creative, not going for the pie-in-the-face or kick-to-the-groin joke. He wanted to keep the humor in his creative subtle. Not surprising from the fine-wine-drinking, fine-cigar-smoking guy who writes about Chivas Regal.

On the other hand, last winter I proposed a campaign where people using the competitors’ product kept getting slapped in the face. A literal metaphor for the competitors’ figurative actions. It was scaled back considerably.

But there’s the question. High brow, low brow or something in between? A perfect mix of all is ideal. Shakespeare wrote subtle tongue-in-cheek innuendo for the lords and ladies in the balconies and lewd, bawdy jokes for the groundlings. He was trying to capture the attention of two different audiences. Shakespeare also had three acts, not :30-:60 seconds or a single magazine page, and he was telling a story, not selling power tools, gym memberships or High-Speed Internet.

I could go either way. Give me the sophisticated brilliance and attention to detail of this X-Box 360 ad, the didn’t see it coming joke in Sprint’s crime deterrent phone commercial, as well as the just-plain-weird/pure genius of E Trade’s 1999 Superbowl commercial.

But remember your audience.

Video gamers want to see something “cool.” Their parents might not get the X-Box commercial, but parents aren’t the main audience. However, you can push the cool factor too far and make something just plain strange, like with this creepy PS3 commercial.

Who was E Trade’s audience? Intelligent, affluent adults, already interested in investing. That commercial might have been lost on Grandpa plowing-corn-fields and Susie-preteen. But the mix of “what the heck” and “duh” got the attention of adults who already figured they knew enough about the market that they could manage their own money.

Sprint was advertising a gadget-filled cell phone. The spots gets in features early and finishes up a gag that gadget-crazy 18-34-year-old males just ate up, told their friends about, and watched again. If you can make someone in our DVR-crazy, 700-channel society excited about a commercial, you’ve done something right.

So the question is audience. Make a spot in that PS3 commercial-style advertising a product to PTA moms during Everybody Loves Raymond, and not only will they not buy it, they’ll try to get it banned. Spend $2 million on explosions, CGI and famous actors when your audience wants to know the bare bones of a product, you probably won’t sell the product and you probably won’t have a job next quarter. On the other hand, when advertising to attention-divided teenagers, you need a hook. Try to give them just the facts and they’ll be on the next channel before they even hear your name.

Advice: Do some research, or have your ad agency do some research. When you make assumptions about your audience, you run the risk of wasting a lot of advertising dollars. There’s an audience for every product, although I’m still having trouble getting fatguysinthongsandalsandnothingelse.com off the ground. I just haven’t found that hook.

Here’s a company that went for a pretty old hook. Girls in bikinis. Tiger Time Lawn Care recently started a new service—the Bikini Cut. Instead of Johnny Overalls mowing the lawn it’s a young woman in a bikini. Their website notes that the client requested Tiger Time’s service because they were trying to sell their house. The house sold in 17 days. Low brow appears to be working for Tiger Time, although Hooters Air wasn’t so fortunate, grounded after only 2 years. My roommate flew Hooters Air shortly after the airline took to the sky. I was surprised to see him again.

Remember: Who is your audience? Don’t be scared to go smart. Intelligence, sophistication and a never-before-seen technique could make you millions—if done right. But try to be too brilliant and you could waste a lot of money and still not reach your audience. And don’t forget that many still respond to what is comfortable and familiar—a warm-friendly face, a pretty girl, a pie in the face, or a neighborly kick to the groin.

The next big thing: Grandma’s Virtual Kick to the Groin. Trust me.

--Captain Awesome, Project Specialist

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