The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Balderdash Wrapped Up As Science …
December 13, 2007, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment


I saw this ad in a restaurant near my office.


Actually you can scrub the ‘smoke free roasters’ bit … just tell me about THERMO-AERODYNAMIC TECHNOLOGY.

I can imagine the owners of the restaurant were ‘influenced’ by those Skin Care / Shampoo ads that use complex scientific terms to try and ‘rationalise’ their product benefits to the end user.

Only thing is, while doing that may have value to those specific categories … in a cheap local restaurant, you have to question whether it has any value at all.

OK I’m being unfair given I have no idea just what this ‘technology’ is or does … but to be honest, any restaurant offering that sort of science terminology is more likely to put me off than to actively encourage me to give it a go.

It’s so easy to get lost in this sort of thing.

I understand why it works [especially for some categories] but it doesn’t mean that’s the only way to tackle the problem.

Saying that, with millions of dollars at risk, I appreciate why companies [and agencies] tend to follow a safe ‘mass trends’ rather than try to do something new – because if it fucks up, they can say they did ‘what everyone else was doing’ and it was just bad luck.

The problem with this attitude is that it ends up naturally favouring the brand with the biggest distribution channel and/or budget – and so for small organisations, they are either pushed out or stand no chance of making a sizable impression.

Why so many small companies feel they should act in the same way as the dominant player is beyond me.

I’m sure they think it adds credibility to their offer – and while in some ways it does – being a ‘me-too’ isn’t going to assure you of anything other than impending failure.

Many, many years ago we were approached by a company to try and break into the Spanish skincare market.

When we looked at the competition, PONDS was identified as one of the key brands that was an obstacle to our longterm success. 

So rather than create communication that looked, sounded and acted like the category, we simply asked …


… and then talked about how marketing is designed to blur the edges of ‘truth’ whereas we believe in a simple, natural, honest approach to all we do.

And while the nice folk at Unilever threatened to sue – the fact our campaign was based on undeniable truth meant they couldn’t actually take any action – resulting in their brand collapsing while ours went from strength to strength.

The company we were working for was The Body Shop and while things have changed dramatically for them in the past few years, I am very happy and proud to say I had a hand in closing the fictional doors of the PONDS ‘Institute’ forever, at least in Spain.

Hell, I should put that on my CV … unless I intend to go and work for JWT at some point in the future, ha!

12 Comments so far
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I like this post. I like it shows your brain and evil side all in one smooth flow. The rationality versus emotional argument will go on and on but I still believe where consumer actions are concerned (regarding most things to do with communication, but not exclusively so) they are inherently linked even if most people vocally separate them in a bid to justify whatever is they were/are going to do.
Agencies like mine often get accused of creating campaigns focused on entertaining rather than commercial success but if we did that, we wouldn’t still be in business. Our VW Golf GTi campaign is a great example. What drove that campaign was a real, business focused, consumer insight which resulted in a campaign that achieved genuine sales growth but because we didn’t follow the “car marketing advertising rules”, we were labelled indulgent and flaky.
The Ponds story brought back lovely memories. It was you lot in your “evil genius prime” but my favourite memory is the look of horror on George’s face when you were telling me the idea because he thought he’d put his life in the hands of maniacs. Of course he had/has but it worked out pretty well in the end.
I wonder if tomorrows prewritten post will be like todays “planning relevant” or yesterdays “mad”?

Comment by Pete

I love that Ponds Institute story. Top quality.

As for THERMO-AERODYNAMIC TECHNOLOGY … Its ad speak for hi-tech hot air. Which is ironic isn’t it.

Comment by Charles Frith

Good post. Good morning.

Comment by The Kaiser

The truth? They couldn’t handle the truth.

Comment by NP

Excellent story.
I like your comment there Pete, it’s very true. Indulgent campaigns are only indulgent if they aren’t based on an insight.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I blame Heston Blumenthal and his groupies.

Comment by John

what pretentious fucking wank are you talking now dodds. youre sounding awfully like one of those planning cocks and neither of us want that.

and youre being too kind to “auntie g” as usual pete. of course the fucker would now claim he was 1000% behind the idea but the truth is he looked like hed just caught me and rob spit roasting his dog.

dont get your kickers in a twist, im not saying were really animal fuckers. well im not but who knows what shit campbell gets up to while hes away.

Comment by andy@cynic

That cheered me up Andy. Thank you.

Comment by The Kaiser

Me too.
Almost makes up for you failing to go to the Kaiser’s blog yesterday and join the argument.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

call that an argument?

Comment by John

there are some great bills up by Choice (and their place in cutting through the rhetoric for consumers) highlighting this kind of wank-jargon with their “seisometric doo-da or the rinsomatic thingy-majig” ads.
and thermo-aerodynamic = well controlled hot air, a little like bad advertising.

Comment by lauren

Good point Lauren and I finally understand why I kept getting SMS’s from Andy calling me Heston Blumenthal.

I didn’t know who he was and to be honest, I would be quite happy to live in ignorance.

And no Andy, he DOESN’T look anything like me so bugger off 🙂

Comment by Rob

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