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

Scratch & Whiff …
April 3, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I was in Australia a few weeks ago.

As I settled down to a bloody wonderful breakfast at one of my favourite old haunts in Balmain, I opened the newspaper and came across this …

Normally I’d pass right past this sort of ad, but this time I was stopped in my tracks.

Not because it was about Hot Cross Buns.

Not because I’m a fan of Heston Blumenthal.

Not because I was interested to find out what the bloody hell Lemon Myrtle was.

No, I was transfixed because it was a ‘scratch and sniff’ ad.


I haven’t seen one of those since 1978.

And you know what, I did scratch it and the smell was pretty good.

In the old days, regardless what the ad was supposed to smell like, you were always overwhelmed by the whiff of newspaper print … but not any more, oh no, because when I gave this a good sniff, it actually spelt like Lemon Myrtle.


OK, so I didn’t buy any but that’s more because I was flying back to Shanghai within a couple of hours than the ad not creating intrigue and – to be honest – desire so well done to Coles and their agency for doing something new/old that utilised one of the oldest, and greatest, selling attributes of food … smell.

Now normally that’s where the post would end, but the thing is, there are many people out there that would view ‘scratch and sniff’ ads as something best consigned to history.

They tend to be the same sort of people who view any ad from before 2000 as dated, irrelevant and lacking creative spark.

Those people are wrong.

In these days where we seem to spend oodles of time promoting image rather than substance, there’s something wonderful about those old ads. They demonstrated a real knowledge of what their audience needed to know/feel/see to change their habits and minds. Better yet, they took this information and created communication that spoke directly to their audience but in simple, intelligent ways.

Sure there was a lot of shit out there … but amongst all that, there was some real gold … and I’d dare to say that proportionately, there was more of that then, than there is today, despite the massive upsurge in the number of brands advertising.

We talk about adland being entrepreneurial but I don’t know if we really are.

If we were, we’d constantly be looking for ways to grow our clients business rather than focus on how to retain their advertising fee.

Of course, clients have to shoulder some of this blame because they want agencies to make them ads, not make them even more successful … which is why I kind of hate how as an industry, we constantly look to the future while jettisoning the past.

Sure, there’s something wonderful about constantly moving forward, striving for the next new thing … but if the cost of that is to classify anything that has previously worked as ‘old and wrong’, then we must all be bloody mental.

It might be old fashioned, but I still believe the basis for great communication – great communication that has real commercial value for our clients – is knowing the audience better than the client knows their audience.

I don’t meant that in the sense of ‘Women 18-54’, I mean in the sense of understanding what people really think, feel, want, fear – the things that represent what is really going on in their heads, not just in their actions – because when you know that, you don’t get ruled by which medium is the latest, coolest or biggest to use, you choose the medium that lets you engage, inspire, intrigue and involve your [broad] audience in the best possible way and in the case of that Coles Easter ad, it was a bloody scratch and sniff press ad.

23 Comments so far
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A great post Rob. This obsession with knowing the platform before knowing the audience is resulting in wonderful executions that don’t affect anyone. I never thought a scratch and sniff ad would be the execution that demonstrates this, but somehow you’ve made it come off that way. Well done.

Comment by Pete

I would also like some hot cross buns now. Is this the dawn of scratch and sniff by proxy advertising?

Comment by Pete

He’s probably got shares in the supermarket and this is his way of boosting profits. Shame only 5 people read this rubbish and then it’s only the comments.

Comment by DH

Funny, I just presented to the global board of a massive brand this week [who aren’t our clients, I should add] on that very subject.

The last slide literally said, “before you start focusing on the platform, make sure you know the people, your purpose [both in their lives and your ultimate ambition] and the point of view that will provoke them to care, think and act.

50% nodded, 50% couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.

Mind you, I didn’t talk about scratch and sniff ads which is probably where I went wrong. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Another thing I’ve never quite understood is why clients ask agencies to do competitive reviews for them. I get they need to understand if they have approached their marketing in new or unique ways but it used to be they would want to know the basics of their competitor not just their behaviour. Isn’t knowing the category and competition a fundamental part of their job. I guess not when you can outsource it to your agency to do as a “value add”.

Comment by Pete

They do that? Seriously?

Comment by John

I suppose they justify it on the basis of the value of a different perspective.

Comment by John

I hadn’t seen this comment Pete … it’s a good – if tragic – point. I have always pushed back when asked to do that. I get they may want to know flighting type info but if they don’t know what the central POV/attribute their competitors are communicating, then they shouldn’t be in their job.

Comment by Rob

Are you the human wiki?

Comment by DH

Just been to the link, I would like to retract my previous comment.

Comment by DH

So let me get this right, the future is hot cross bun advertising?

Comment by DH

I can’t wait for the scratch and sniff toilet roll ads.

Comment by Bazza

“There’s something wonderful about constantly moving forward, striving for the next new thing … but if the cost of that is to classify anything that has previously worked as ‘old and wrong’, then we must all be bloody mental.” Excellent, especially the way you distill it down to 3 little words; know your audience.

Comment by George

Yep, know your audience beyond the marketing research and consumption habits.

Not hard to grasp, yet I swear the reason so many brands resist doing it is not for cost reasons, but because deep down … they believe they’re the brand people sit patiently at home wanting for their ad to appear so they can immediately rush out – regardless of time, price or location – to buy copious amounts of them.

Comment by Rob

If the supermarket wanted to be true to Blumenthal, the ad would pour out liquid nitrogen when you scratched it. Missed opportunity.

Comment by Wayne Green

Real hot cross buns don’t have icing … or cause frostbite!

Comment by Ian Gee

Heston Blumenthal screws everything up doesn’t he.

Comment by Rob

Great post.
I’m ashamed to say I actually bake Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns thanks to Heston. I don’t shop at Waitrose by the way, I can’t afford it

Comment by northern

Maybe you could be the celebrity planner/chef for SPAR.

[Do Spar still exist?]

Comment by Rob

Yes they do amazingly, I guess when people realise I still don’t know what TVR’s are there’s always that fall back

Comment by northern

its ok northern, youre northern, you fuckers have only got b&w television.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ich wüsste gerne, inwieweit auf diesem Weblog noch Gast-Autoren willkommen sind.
Ich finde die Beiträge hier total geil, schreibe selbst viel zu Themen wie Maschinenbau
sowie auch Wälzlager und habe viel Lust, dass auch mal einem größeren Publikum vorzustellen.

Meine Adresse ist – für den Fall, dass
du mir deshalb texten magst.

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