Entertain us…everywhere

The 30-second spot as we know it is dead. How many times have you come across that now-ubiquitous phrase? Millions, no doubt. And if you're like me you're sick of hearing about it, as well as the infamous stack of reasons why. The solution, many agree, is to revive the commercial by making it more entertaining. So why is the world still inundated with lacklustre advertising?

The 30-second spot as we know it is dead. How many times have you come across that now-ubiquitous phrase? Millions, no doubt. And if you’re like me you’re sick of hearing about it, as well as the infamous stack of reasons why. The solution, many agree, is to revive the commercial by making it more entertaining. So why is the world still inundated with lacklustre advertising?

Perhaps because the definition of what is entertaining differs, depending on where you sit in the communications cyle. If you’re a consumer at the end of the line, the descriptor might be applied to something funny or sad or delightfully strange. But it definitely relates to a narrative of some kind. If you’re a marketer? Well, you might think the toothpaste you work on day in and day out beams like Tom Cruise’s sparkly whites in a crowd of British soccer hooligans and therefore deserves the spotlight.

According to Mark Tutssel, deputy CCO for Leo Burnett, (see ‘Q’s with,’ on page 8), many marketers initiate their ad campaigns from the fallacy that consumers give a shit about their product. Thing is, they couldn’t care less about, say, a running shoe.

However, they do care about how the logo on that running shoe makes them feel. Brands that get it, like Nike and Apple, stand for something – the joys of competition or the freedom of individual creativity or whatever – and that is reflected in the messaging loud and clear. And so consumers get hooked.

Today’s savvy audience, which is plugged into all sorts of gadgets and ambient media, doesn’t only want to be turned on in traditional ways. They want to be intrigued online, via mobile, at events, on the street, and so on. And within those avenues, any word-of-mouth tactics should naturally strive to titillate too.

In the report on buzz, which starts on page 59, advocates suggest that WOM should be used sparingly, and only if there’s something worthwhile to say. You have to wait patiently and then snag those opportunities when the time’s right, because consumers can smell BS a mile away. Makes sense. But I would argue that if your buzz strategy is entertainment-driven, it can be successful without a lot of real substance.

Case in point is the much applauded Burger King Subservient Chicken viral effort, by Miami’s Crispin Porter + Bogusky. You’ve all heard about the guy in a chicken suit, who will perform acts on command, by now? Well, after hatching the concept a year ago, CP+B

e-mailed it to 20 of their friends. That’s it. In 24 short hours, one million users had engaged. Sure, the initiative fed into BK’s overall ‘Have it your way’ strategy, but what did it say about BK the brand? Nothing really. Yet the resulting buzz was heard round the world. Canadian marketers, as indicated by Solo Mobility’s quirky new stompball.ca endeavour (see page 9) – which enthuses about the bizarre sport with barely a mention of the Solo brand – are catching on.

Hmmm, a campaign about nothing that just happens to be wackily entertaining.

They might just be on to something.

Lisa D’Innocenzo, Editor