Tuesday, 8 April 2008

When advertising is worth having

Browsing the magazine rack in the newsagent the other day it was interesting to consider the decision factors that make one choose one magazine over another. Classically the full face stunningly beautiful female works well. The other great persuader is the free stuff stuck on the front. My daughter was scrubbling around at my feet where all the children’s comics were. What’s stuck on the front is often her first selection criterion. She could choose a cute notebook and pen decorated with puppies, a clear plastic ‘mobile phone’ with lip gloss in, or an attractively pink Barbie necklace. However, she was finally won over by an inflatable ‘Pinky-ponk’ on the ‘In the Night Garden’ comic, a BBC sensation for the under 5s. A combination of play value, intrigue and affinity for the ‘character’ was powerful stuff.

Most women’s magazines are well padded with free bags, flip flops and sarongs – consistent with the theme of the magazine – fashiony things – but not fully coherent with the brand or furthering one’s understanding of it.

There’s an interesting thought that really good advertising should actually have its own intrinsic value – one should feel that something has been learnt, experienced, discovered just by seeing an ad. The Guinness ‘Surfers’ is an example of an ad that is of such quality it almost has a life of its own – its iconic ‘tock followed tick’ and poetic use of CGI on the white horses has given it an importance beyond selling Irish stout. However it is empirically associated with and expressive of the core brand idea – you have to wait. Levi’s ad, featuring Bottom and Titania and reminiscent of Buz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet, added refreshing cultural wit to an evening’s viewing – and to the impression of a pair of Levi’s jeans.

What interested me on the magazine rack was this month’s World of Interiors ‘freebie’. Completely coherent with WoI brand but also a generous and useful gift from the brand being promoted – Farrow & Ball. Somehow the rather low-key yet confident act of merely giving away their new colour card underlined the integrity and individuality of their brand. The plastic wrapper was emblazoned, tastefully, with ‘Be the first to have the new Farrow & Ball colour card.’ Getting information about the product range of a paint manufacturer was enough to persuade me to buy a particular magazine – extraordinary.