Ad doesn’t lock in brand

(Re: 'Picture perfect', a story in the Feb. 28 special report on Effectiveness in Newspaper Advertising.) It is right there for all to see. Right across the country. Words right out of their own minds. Zak ('holy shit') Mroueh, associate creative...

(Re: ‘Picture perfect’, a story in the Feb. 28 special report on Effectiveness in Newspaper Advertising.)

It is right there for all to see. Right across the country. Words right out of their own minds. Zak (‘holy shit’) Mroueh, associate creative director at TAXI Advertising in Toronto; Trevor (‘junkyard’) McConnell of Palmer Jarvis DDB in Vancouver; John (‘giant clam’) Farquhar of Young & Rubicam; Ian (‘one idea’) Grais of Rethink, and Michael (‘tight…times’) McLaughlin of BBDO.

In all their talk, as quoted in a recent article by David Todd about ‘fresh ways of saying’, their admission that ‘newspapers are regarded as the junkyard of the ad business and their whining about poor colour reproduction and tight turnaround constraints, there is not one brand-oriented thought among them.

Not Salon, not Selective

and not Colour Shield.

The ad for Salon Selectives Colour Shield shampoo touted as an ad that ‘really pops’ which accompanied the article is a prime example of the generic thinking of which all ad agencies are best at and guilty of (I know, two ending prepositions. Poetic licence; used for emphasis). What a terrible way to treat a great brand idea. Such a waste of space! All this ad does is make a terrible metaphor out of a generic feature/benefit.

Trust a young male award-winning copywriter to come up with this one. Gets across the ‘locks in’ part but totally ignores the brand. What’s the connection to the brand? This ad works with any brand. What is it about the ‘selective’ ability, ‘salon’ milieu and ‘colour shield’ attributes of this product’s positioning that entitles it to exclusive ownership of the creative idea? That’s what is missing from this kind of thinking, notwithstanding whatever value there might be in the metaphor.

Key Problem

The key problem is that Mroueh started the idea process searching, in his own words, for ‘a fresh way of saying’ that a hair care product locks in colour. He should have started by searching for the way in which to leverage the brand to the notion of ‘locking’. That’s why it’s called brand marketing! The way was staring him in the face. It’s the name of the brand. There’s a ton of potential being ignored here simply because of the approach to the brand. It doesn’t come last as a sort of grateful recipient of creative ability, it comes first. The thinking should have been, how can I make this brand the exclusive owner of a locking type of idea?

Creative Arrogance

This ad also reflects the arrogance of the idea. It places the creativity above the brand. The brand is just the excuse for the writer/director to showcase how clever he is. And we’re supposed to admire the fact that it is clear, simple and uses virtually no copy! All the right generics and no brand integration, let alone positioning. Probably win an award.

Tery Poole


Poole-Adamson Research Consultants

Toronto, Ont.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group