Friday, 29 May 2015

Is Ugly the New Trend in Advertising?

What do we mean when we use the word beautiful? 

Beauty is subjective. 
How we define it varies from person to person, gender to gender, place to place. 
Take Esther Honig’s project Before & After. She asked designers around the world to Photoshop her beautiful – and of course the results were dramatically different from country to country. 
There’s a chronological element as well. Grey London did a great piece on this for Gillette recently – how men’s facial hair and fashion has changed constantly and radically over just the past century. 
The spot wasn't created to mock the strange and unusual facial hair of the past.
(Though I think we can all admit now that the 70s style of moustache should never have been acceptable.)
By highlighting the rapid changes in fashion, Gillette justifies its own offering for the modern world – male body grooming. 
Unusual? Perhaps, but no more so than anything else we've seen in the past century. Recognising the plurality of beauty standards isn’t essential for being a well-known brand, but it is essential for being well liked.

Enter Protein World.

Their ad campaign “Are You Beach Body Ready” has – objectively – been a major success. It’s raised the company’s profile significantly and generated huge sales: five thousand new customers in four days.
As Dave Trott noted, because of the controversy, the first name in weight loss is now Protein World.

But it’s hard to imagine this media storm yielding long-term benefits.

If nothing else, declaring itself the provider for the unattainably beautiful is limiting its own potential market.
Protein World implicitly claims only one standard for beauty; a certain type of face, a certain body shape. And it’s dishonest. More than that, it’s unnecessarily negative.
Dove by contrast took the backlash over the ad as a chance to jump in with another iteration of its body-positive, pluralistic take on beauty.
(This wasn't in fact made by Dove, but by a fan. Which is if anything more impressive for a brand.)
Dove’s message of ‘Real Beauty’ is a powerful one. It’s not through idealism – it’s through realism. In acknowledging that we don’t all fit into one prescribed vision of beauty,  the Dove message comes across as being more honest, more genuine.
This is the 21st century. It’s not enough to simply tell people what they want anymore. You have to give them options. You have to give them a positive message.

You have to make them feel good. 

Which brings us to the Intermarché “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign by Marcel in France. If you haven’t already heard of this, you should really check it out. If nothing else, Adam&eve's ECD Richard Brim has it as his top pick for Cannes. So look out for that.
It’s a very simple idea at its heart: sell more of the less attractive fruits and vegetables, and save money for everyone. It was a witty, funny, bold campaign, and captured the imagination. The campaign ran with fun copy about the produce which underlined the fact that, ugly or not, this was still good food.
An Ugly Orange Makes Beautiful Juice.
The less appealing produce was sold alongside the standard fare – except 30% cheaper. They even gave away produce to prove their point, with ‘ugly orange juice’, and ‘ugly mashed potato’.
13 million saw the ads for free on social media, and it wasn’t just a viral phenomenon; sales went up 24% following the campaign launch. 
Soon journalists were calling for all supermarkets to follow Intermarché’s lead. As of just last week the French parliament has passed a law banning the destruction of food by supermarkets. Thanks in no small part to the push by Marcel and Intermarché.
It’s a genius bit of insight.

So, is this a new trend in advertising?

Maybe not.
It’s important to remember that a big part of the appeal of these ads is in their novelty, as much as their message. 
But equally what the campaigns from Dove and Intermarché have in common is that they come across as truthful. People trust ‘ugly’ ads in what they say, because if you’re going to lie, the first thing you do is wrap the lie up in something pretty.
We’re surrounded by the beautiful in advertising – and that’s good, that’s what works most of the time. But there is beauty in telling the truth in a bold way.

And in a world filled with pretty ads and sanitised images, there is something refreshing about the bravery of being willing to be ugly.

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