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Contributor: Mike de Sousa,
surrounds us at every turn, some campaigns hit the
mark, others never get close. I've pulled together
my thoughts about when advertising works, not just
by increasing interest and sales of a particular product,
but also when the making of an advert has satisfied
the creative team producing it.
£750,000 two minute TV ad 'Cog' inspired a marketing
campaign that had at its centre a quality and cohesion
rarely seen. From print to web site, text copy to
DVD, Honda's creative team ensured
every word and image was crafted, every photo optimised,
every allusion to the product, the Honda Accord car,
Wieden & Kennedy:
Tony Davidson; Creative Director: Kim Papworth;
Production Producer: Frank Montillot; Producer:
advertising campaigns like the Cog come at an
incredibly high price. The Honda Accord campaign
is reputed to have cost around the $6 million
mark, enough money to carry out 30,000 cataract
operations (cataracts are the leading treatable
cause of blindness worldwide). Perhaps the goal
of advertising a product might sometimes be
best served by publicising good deeds. I'll
address this whole area in a special issue of
The Column. For now I want to focus on a few
ads that successfully combine an effective marketing
message with an imaginative creative edge.
Strength of Continuity
of the great strengths of the Honda campaign
was the cross-media continuity that was
deployed. Honda's website (click the image
on the left to enlarge the screenshot)
delivered a web version of the Cog movie
which required a great deal of additional
development time. The DVD of the Cog which
was released in the UK also demonstrated
the keen eye for presentational detail
and quality that positioned the Honda
product above its competitors.
The high production values associated
the Honda Accord with the creative flair
that characterised the Cog campaign. This
served to reinforce the product placement
and at the same time encouraged the creators
of the advertisements (the TV and print
ads, DVD production, and web pages) to
explore their own creativity within the
confines of the ad's purpose, thereby
creating a virtuous circle.
Fog of Cog
May 2002-2007, filmmakers Peter Fischli and David
Weiss threatened legal action against Honda
over similarities between the 'Cog' commercial
and 'The Way Things Go' (Der Lauf der Dinge),
a 30-minute film they produced in 1987.
Although the principle direction of the Cog
may well have taken its inspiration from The
Way Things Go, the Cog is a very different undertaking.
The purpose of the Cog was to sell a product,
the purpose of The Way Things Go was primarily
There are very few new ideas, and we all reference
other works when we create 'new' works. I've
lost count of the times my 'new idea' has been
presented elsewhere before I've even had it!
I'm not for a moment advocating the copying
of creative work. I spend a large part of my
days being 'creative' and when I see something
I've put a lot of time and effort into being
presented by someone as if it's their work,
it infuriates me. That said, referencing other
works and making something new from the examples
of external sources is very much part of the
are major similarities between the Cog and The
Way Things Go, but I feel the Cog doesn't cross
the boundary from inspiration to content theft.
The most important issue is whether the creators of
the Cog made something significantly new as compared
with the 'source work'. For various reasons I feel
the Cog stands on it's own, not least because the
context of the Cog is entirely different than The
Way Things Go, and context, as Marcel Duchamp long
ago pointed out, is everything.
Make It Real
the advertising medium, be it paper, digital,
or text, becomes the object of desire as much
as the promoted product, the lines of the customer's
Packard's advertisers created a mini rectangular
CD Rom with the face of a Digital Camera printed
on one side, all housed in a three way paper
Art, design, and advertising perfectly married
as the aspirations and creative drive of the
target audience was manipulated in an exquisite
Kim Possible 'Kimmunicator' was positioned in comics
with the the text 'Are you ready for your secret mission?'
printed on the back.
Kids were encouraged to watch a TV program and
to place the 'Decoder Screen' against the TV
set when the program was on. If the name on
the screen matched the card there was a chance
to win ... A Secret Agent Pack ... To win the
pack kids paid 25p (UK) to phone their code
through. Disney successfully introduced kids
to the show and involved them in an imaginative
way. They even managed to offset some of the
production costs with revenue generated by the
used many of the strategies mentioned above
in the kids ad. Saab's 9-3 Convertible ad was
a four leaf, premium quality production with
three clear inner sleeves, each containing a
colour transparency. The target audience was
encouraged to explore the transparencies by
removing them from the sleeves and holding them
up to the light.
A free 'driving experience' was also run as
part of the ad campaign that invited people
to test drive the car for 24 hours with unlimited
mileage, free insurance, and no hire charges.
I even took the offer up myself but I never
bought the car... The emphasis of the Saab campaign
was generosity, quality, and an extremely high
standard of presentation.
Out, Come In
intention in writing this article was to show
how an inventive approach and a drive for perfection
in advertising benefits not only the commissioner,
but also encourages the creative professional
to give more to the project.
Whether it's a simple paper door tag by Sappi
who were promoting their award grant to support
design for social good (see left screenshot),
or Honda who merged the boundaries of product
exposure and aesthetics, the best advertising
development policies encourage creatives to
explore their potential within a clear boundary.
Maintaining a principle of high presentational values
need not be beyond a company's means. If you have
to pay for creative labour using an external advertising
agency, great ad campaigns may be expensive, if however
you're advertising a product using the services of
an individual advertising design specialist or in
in-house creative team, there's no good reason why
you can't match the best that's out there...
de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site
designer, and author.
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