The long and short of it

By AdNews | 8 October 2004

The Advertising Federation of Australia is planning to add an extra category to its Advertising Effectiveness Awards this year - long-term campaigns.

Campaigns to be awarded may consist of a single creative idea with multiple executions, may merely be a linking device, or a consistent strategy. The campaign must have produced long-term effects (at least four years' worth apparently). This is a great idea but my question is this: will the category have many genuine contenders? This is from The Guardian in 1998, reporting on the demise of the 11-year Nestle Gold Blend campaign in the UK: "The commercials . . . had a unique place in British popular culture. When Tony Head told Sharon Maughan 'I love you' in the original campaign, 30 million people watched and the Sun splashed the photo on its front page. A novel based on the ads and a branded CD of love songs became best-sellers." Personally, I couldn't stand the Gold Blend ads, but it seems I was in the minority. Can you think of any ad campaign in recent Australian history that could have garnered a similar response? What we have are standalone ads that may be excellent in their own right, but don't have longevity. Even campaigns which have potential, such as Hahn Light, seem to go astray. The first ad was great, but the second was, well, the same idea as the first. Is there a lack of simple strategic thinking and long-term planning on the part of agencies, or are short-tenure marketing managers looking for the hero ad before landing their next job? An Australian campaign that might have eventually fitted into the AFA's new category was Clemenger's work for Yellow Pages. When Margo Kingston hijacks your tagline for a political book (Not Happy, John), you know you've become part of the furniture. But just at the point where the characters could have been developed further, the campaign was dropped in favour of a lesser version pushing exactly the same concept. It would have been understandable if the company felt "Not happy Jan" was limiting what it wanted to say to customers. After all, this was the reason Virgin Mobile dropped the hugely successful "Warren" campaign in favour of a vertically-challenged rapper. Yellow Pages has a reputation as a notoriously didactic client which may explain why the campaign is creatively lacking. But why didn't the company look to gain mileage from its previous campaign? Why continue to push the same old line that missing inclusion in the Yellow Pages can hurt your business, without using Jan and her boss again? What was the point of trying to recreate that connection with the audience when the job had already been done, only better? The fact that this was the first campaign from Y&R since the account was moved from Clemenger might have had some bearing on this. But "Not happy, Jan" had legs. It had potential to run and run. Consumers put aside their dislike of commercials when they identify with and enjoy the antics of a particular character. Just ask the 300 or so Kiwis who turned up this year to the funeral of the dog that said "Bugger" in those Toyota ads. Where are Australia's long-running campaigns that become cultural references? This is a question both for clients and agencies. Where are the campaigns that have the latest installment, or "episode" discussed in family living rooms and pubs alike? The AFA is pondering how to define long-term campaigns but I'd be wondering how many there are any in the first place.

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