Tag Archives: Advertising

The role of brands

These are my very brief thoughts in relation to the role of brands, whether the power of brands is waning and what it means for the industry as a whole…

It used to be relatively simple to know what the role of a brand was. Brands were simply products and services available for sale. But society has evolved at tremendous pace pace in the last century and brands have evolved with them. Now, it feels like everything is a brand. Rightly or wrongly, brands now dictate what we think of people and how we think of ourselves.

So, is the power of the big brand waning?

Well, the above would suggest not. Unprecedented technological advancement has meant that in the present day, brands are able to be more flexible and multi faceted than ever before. Brands can offer different meanings to different people doing different things at different times. This flexibility creates greater relevance to the visions and ideologies that consumers identify with and conform to.  

So, with greater opportunities to be relevant comes greater power?

Well, yes it does. However, the opportunity to become multi-dimensional has a flip side. With these technological advancements, the consumer has also been offered the opportunityto participate and interact rather than simply consume messaging. As such, brands are no longer a static brand value but a constantly morphing discourse of opinion. Some belong to the brand, but more belong to individuals who now have the power to make and break them.

If the product and the vision stacks up, then brands are more powerful than ever. If brand credentials don’t stack up though, then no amount of media purchasing and snappy slogans will rescue them from public opinion

So, what does this mean for our profession? Well, it means it’s harder to cut-through than ever before. It means we can’t bullshit consumers. It means we need to understand a plethora of channels that a few years we didn’t even know existed.

It also means more channels than ever before to communicate in. More opportunities to be bold and innovative. More opportunities to make a difference to greater numbers of people than ever before.  It means there’s never been a more exciting time to be working in the communications industry.

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Product Placement

So, the big news for the advertising industry this week is the expected decision that will allow commercial broadcasters to show sponsored products for the first time. If, as expected, the decision is passed, there will be another avenue for brands to promote their wares. The days of fictional products will disappear and pints of ‘Newton & Ridley’ in the Rovers Return will be replaced by Stella, Heineken or A.N.Other highest bidder.

...Soon to be Wetherspoons?

...Soon to be Wetherspoons?

In some ways, our soap operas will return to their routes. The name ‘soap opera’ stemming from the original serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate – Palmolive and Lever Brothers as sponsors and producers targeting weekly daytime slots when mostly housewives would be available to listen.

Not that that product placement in itself is a new phenomenon. We seem to know a lot about the spending habits of our favourite fictional screen stars. James Bond’s preferred watch is an Omega (the Rolex brand manager was obviously gazumped), while ¬ Spider-Man likes a drop of Dr Pepper. It’s difficult to forget the cringe worthy scene in I, Robot in which a character compliments Will Smith’s character’s shoes to which he replies “Converse All-Stars, vintage 2004.(the year of the film’s release).

Product Placement Overkill

Product Placement Overkill

I, Robot was ranked “the worst film for product placement” on a British site due to overt placements for Ovaltine, Audi, FedEx, Dos Equis, and JVC among others, all of them introduced within the first ten minutes of the film. A classic example of overkill if any was needed.

So, advertisers will need to tread carefully. Over the forthcoming months, no doubt there will be checklists developed as how to create a successful product placement. We know that relevancy will be the key. Execution will also be critical. Extreme close ups of freshly poured lager or glinting accessories are going to be a massive turn off. Logistically, it will also be incredibly interesting to see how these product placements will be managed. Will brand managers be on set to ensure that their product is shown in the perfect light? Will scripts be passed through the marketing departments of FMCG brands to check that the correct product cues are being communicated? The process promises to be a complex one.

The essence of advertising is often confused as an art form. Primarily by creative departments. The simple fact though, as communicated most succinctly by David Ogilvy is that advertising ‘has an obligation to sell’. The ultimate aim is to move product – not produce aesthetically outstanding work. Of course, the two frequently go hand in hand but they are not mutually exclusive. It is going to be the marrying of the commerciality of advertising with the simple aim of televisions shows – to entertain, that is going to create friction.

And commerciality is the sole reason behind this about turn. ITV has championed the lifting of the ban which it said would be “warmly welcomed by the commercial broadcasting industry and advertisers alike”. It has been suggested that it will earn an incremental £100m a year for broadcasters. I actually struggle to see how such a figure can be arrived at. Product placement does not mean marketing budgets will increase. The marketing pot is not dependant on mediums available. Instead, all it means is that other areas of the marketing budget will be cut and re-allocated. If I had to place a bet on where the budget for product placement might come from, I would say it would come from elsewhere in the TV budget. Product Placement is some instances could be a very cost effective way to get awareness on TV screens without spending money on ads with high production values.

My prediction is that the real level of earnings will be considerably lower. It is too early to tell now the full effects. Across the marketing world, clients will be asking agencies to look at the opportunities. Some will do it well and some less well but one thing is for certain – product placement will not be the saviour of the ailing television advertising industry.

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