Archive | January, 2015

R.I.P. the campaign

5 Jan

Happy New Year.

Has anyone else noticed how few ad campaigns we are currently treated to in the UK media? Campaigns used to be exactly that – a concerted and ongoing series of advertisements aimed at creating a memorable message about a brand. These are the ads that you grew up with. These are the ads you loved before you knew you wanted to work in advertising.

So what happened to the campaign? Right now a campaign is one burst of activity with maybe a slogan that sits quietly in a bottom right hand corner or on an end frame. It is a campaign that lasts a season rather than (in the case of KitKat) half a century.

Students are told that an idea needs to be campaignable to be worthy of inclusion in a portfolio. Pitch ideas are sold on their campaignability, but inevitably, the client runs one or two ads and then shelves the ‘campaign’ when a new marketing director comes in six months later.

I find it ironic that our industry journal is called Campaign yet, with the exception of stalwarts such as Specsavers and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, I can barely call to mind a brand that actually runs an ongoing ad campaign. Instead, a campaign is really now just an idea that can be used in a combination of media. Or in other words, a campaign is now a burst.

Campaigns work because repetition works. In a world in which consumers are bombarded with sales messages, continuity helps. And by continuity, I don’t mean a line like ‘Das Auto’ bolted onto the end of both a 3 minute viral and a quarter page in the Times. Continuity is the kind of single-mindedness that ensured every man woman and child alive in the 70s and 80s knew that ‘Mash means Smash’, and every beer drinker knew that ‘Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’. We loved seeing Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins drinking Cinzano and Gold Blend was practically a soap opera. Campaigns get under the skin of a culture. Singable jingles (Shake’n’Vac), memorable lines (Naughty but Nice), loveable characters (Maureen Lipman as Beattie) endear a brand to a public that likes to think that it doesn’t much like brands or being sold to.

Maybe it is down to budgets. Or short term thinking. Or the belief that people get bored easily. Maybe clients switch agency and demand something new. Whatever the reason, with the loss of the campaign it feels like something good has been lost.