On his morning radio show, Chris Evans was talking about how technology had changed everything.
He said: “Remember when iPhones first came out, you knew it was all changing when advertising began getting involved.”
Stavros said: “Remember that great Guinness ad on smartphones?”
Rachel said: “The drinking one, ooh yeah.”
Chris said: “Yeah, you stood in the pub and tilted the iPhone and it looked just like you were drinking a glass of Guinness.”
Stavros said: “Yes, that was insane – I loved that.”
Rachel said: “Really funny.”
Then they went on to talk about different innovative pieces of technology.
As I was listening, I thought, yeah, I remember that but it wasn’t an ad for Guinness.
It was an ad for a completely different beer.
So that ad was actually selling a competitor’s product, but it won lots of awards.
As usual, the ad started life as a video on YouTube, of someone drinking an image on a smartphone (they tilted the phone and the liquid tilted).
Then some creatives thought what creatives always think: “That’s brilliant, we must use it quick before someone else does.”
And the agency that did it first won lots of awards for being so innovative.
That’s how it works in the agency world.
But that’s not how it works in the real world, as evidenced by Evans’ conversation.
Punters look at the ad gimmick and think “That’s clever” and attribute it to whatever brand is uppermost in their minds.
Because the idea is just a technique – it isn’t an ad because it doesn’t start with “How can we sell this product?”
It starts with “How can we win an award?”
Let’s remind ourselves of Bob Levenson’s definition of the difference:
“If you like an ad, try taking the product out. If you still like it, it’s a lousy ad.”
But that’s what passes as advertising – techniques with no branding.
The theory of brand purpose plays directly into this.
We isolate what we think is our product’s brand (for brand, read mood or emotion).
Then we assume, with absolutely no evidence, that this emotion is unique to our brand.
But when this thinking meets the real world, where the emotion is not unique, it could apply to virtually any brand in any sector.
This happened a few years back with the word “Joy” – planners everywhere believed this emotion, this word, was unique to their brand.
So we had the word appearing for products from Cadbury’s to BMW.
If you felt the emotion “joy”, you would run out and buy our car, sorry chocolate, sorry washing powder, sorry insurance.
Because you experienced “joy”, and that is unique to us.
It all reminds me of a story in the Bible, the Gadarene swine.
Jesus meets a madman, possessed by demons.
Jesus asks his name, the demons inside him answer: “Call us Legion, for we are many.”
Jesus then casts the demons out of the man and into a herd of pigs.
The pigs, now possessed by the demons, run into the river and drown.
All following each other without question.
ChatGPT is the latest example of marketing behaving like Gadarene swine, but it won’t be the last.
Dave Trott is the author of The Power of Ignorance, Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.
This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk