Flying Seraph
How To Get Loved Advertising: Ask My Chiropractor

I have the loveliest chiropractor in the world. But last week I swear she deliberately dug her elbow in far harder than needed. Just after I told her we’d put AAMI’s ‘Rhonda & Katut’ campaign to sleep. For good.

You see it was her favourite campaign. And that of her sisters. And her Mum.

Shouldn’t have been a surprise – it was voted the nation’s favourite.

It won Gold for Effectiveness across Asia and an Effie in Australia.

(It was a soapie in 30-second episodes that told the story of a car insurance customer – Rhonda – using her savings to holiday in Bali. She and Katut – a handsome local, fell in love. The romance blossomed, twisted and turned by episode – each deftly and subtly introducing a product feature. Some better than others, admittedly.)

The public took ownership. Some crazy man tattooed a key frame on his foot. Some people – no client involved – created a Facebook page with a monster following: ‘The sexual tension between Rhonda and Katut”. A greyhound named – wait for it – ‘Kiss me Katut’ did pretty well. Loads of T-shirts sold in Bali featuring Rhonda and her beau.

So advertising can make its way into popular culture. Advertising can be truly loved. And really work. Even in a resented category like car insurance.

Come to think of it, in my early years in Johannesburg, the Cannes reel was screened in cinemas at lunchtime – for the public. Screenings were packed. Queues flowed out onto the street.

Seems people do indeed love and choose to watch great advertising.

Which is very important because the biggest problem advertisers face – as Martin Weigel neatly points out – is Indifference

On the other side of the ledger, it wounded me recently to hear someone say: “It’s only an ad. It’s not important”.

How can these 2 contradictory positions sit side by side?

Well there’s a growing sense that we’ve done it to ourselves (that ‘we’ is you and me; marketers, researchers and communications agents). We’ve let our standards slip. We’re content with OK and not striving for the real goal –  ideas that people want to see again or even share. As much as we take the plaudits for the good stuff, we’re jointly culpable when we dish up rubbish.

If we’re trying to get people to opt in when they’d rather opt out – the Indifference/self-protection thing  – we’d better get better at seduction, entertainment, likeability once more. Not just in some of our work. In everything.

Five years ago, my then business partner and one of the best ECDs I know – John Kane – spoke of ‘Visual Swopsies’. By which he meant a vast body of today’s ads that for all intents and purposes are identical, except for different casting or main visual.

If you think that’s harsh, flick through the cosmetics ads at the front of glossy magazines. It’s a joke.

Pat Baron, ECD at McCann wrote recently: ‘So much work in our own market is fake, formulaic and contrived’. May not have John’s Irish charm to it. But he’s onto the same thing, I think.

A few months back I saved a Tweet. I don’t know it’s original author. It read: ‘I don’t like advertising that looks like advertising. I like advertising that looks like life.’

It was a call – like Pat’s – to shun formulae and to once again nurture the kind of diversity and humanity in advertising our community demands. More ‘Rhonda & Katut’; more Bigpond ‘Rabbits’; more ‘Dancing Butchers’; more ‘Not Happy Jan’; more ‘Dumb ways to die’…

Each Agency likes to be ‘different’. How about we set aside the differences and go straight for what binds us all – a simple test of highly Relevant, highly Unexpected and highly Likeable?

To me, it seems this is the only way past sending out unintentional signals that say: ‘this is an ad, you can go and turn the kettle on now’.

Seth Godin offers an even simpler test: ‘Would you miss it if it weren’t there?’ To which he adds: ‘And yes, I mean your fundraising newsletter and your Facebook updates, and I mean the announcements on the speaker at the airport and the robocalls too.’

Seems Seth gets my chiropractor. Way better than I ever did.

Follow Mark Sareff’s series here.

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