Friday, 6 May 2016

JetBlue Wants Little Babies To Cry Before It Will Lower Its Prices

I’ve been being far too positive and nice about ads lately. Must be my kind and generous personality shining through.

(I am actually a decent person, honest.)

So here’s a terrible one, “FlyBabies” by MullenLowe for JetBlue in the US.

Here, we see mothers and their babies board a flight. But, this is no ordinary flight! It's a special flight where any time a baby cries, JetBlue will take 25% off everyone's next flight. Isn't that lovely?


The first issue, which I admit is at least partly to do with the US style of advertising, is the mawkish, over-egged drama of the whole thing. Nervous mothers, people staring, and obviously planted, scripted dialogue undermining any sense of genuine emotion. It feels inherently fake and forced.

Flight attendants: like huge, insincere spiders.
But my main beef with this film is that there’s no value to it. It was a stunt. A one-off. JetBlue don’t actually give a discount to people when babies cry on their flights.

(Which is fair enough. That would be a really stupid idea.)

It's an event, created to be filmed. What then is the point to anyone else? I can't imagine why we're supposed to be impressed with the kindness of a single event. If you're going to lecture us on a moral about being nicer to parents, you've got to make more of an effort than this.

I mean, it’s nice that a handful of people got free flights.

(It’s nice for them, anyway.)

No one else gets anything out of it though. What we get is a wee story about how great JetBlue are, because they once did a cool thing for a few people on one flight.

And then there’s this, from Elle:

‘For now, a spokesperson for JetBlue says the airline has no immediate plans to repeat the stunt. But, she added, "you never know what JetBlue has up their sleeves!"’

Which is basically the PR equivalent for “don’t look behind the curtain!”

I’m not saying this to be a Scrooge or to hate on kids. Quite the opposite. If anything it’s perverse that JetBlue are celebrating and rewarding and revelling in a child’s tears.

An understandable action, but I thought they were trying to make the opposite point.
That’s literally what they’re doing, when you come down to it. Linking financial gain with upsetting children. You're practically putting an incentive on people to make their kids cry. This isn't supposed to be Oliver Twist for heaven's sake.

(Although the choreography is almost as obvious.)

This is one of the dumbest, most meritless ads I think I’ve ever seen. JetBlue and MullenLowe, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

If People Can Ignore a Giant Warning Sign on a Bridge, What Chance Does Your Social Post About It Being Wednesday Have?

(I mean I'll be impressed if you just read that headline through.)

From today's news, an impressive display.

From the BBC:

"A lorry has crashed into a railway bridge emblazoned with "low bridge" warning signs in London."

"A spokesman from Southern Railway said: "The bridge was hit by lorries four times in September and has since been struck twice every month, causing more than 147 cancellations and delaying trains by over 73 hours in total."

"The situation is so serious at Tulse Hill that Network Rail has now assigned response staff to monitor the bridge on location at peak times every week.

"It has also installed a large steel protection beam, the large "low bridge" banner and CCTV."

As good a reminder as any of the limits of advertising.

No matter how clear, simple and powerful your message may be, a lot of the time, people are just not going to look at it.

(To be honest though, I mostly just wanted to share how silly this story is.)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

I Am Ready For More Beauty Ads Like This One

(“Idle Advertising: Beating You Over The Head With A Joke Since 2015.”)

I’m often a little hesitant to jump into discussing ads with an expressly different demographic to my own. Maybe I’ll like it for the wrong reasons – or maybe I’ll dislike it for the wrong reasons.

And with that caveat in place, here’s an absolutely fantastic ad, "Ready For More", for Boots No.7 by Mother London.

“Ready For More.” Simple. Unpretentious. Most importantly, an easily understood message. You age, and you keep going, because you’re still thirsty for success, even when tempered with experience. In the spotlight is Alessandra Ferri, age 52 – and Alessandra Ferri, age 19, as a hologram. The interplay between the past and present makes for a gorgeous, engaging film, with an empowering message that blends the nostalgic with the forward-facing. In fact I can’t say it more clearly than Ferri herself:

“I’m proud of what I’ve done and who I was when I was younger, but I’m also proud of what I’m doing now and who I am now.”

And yes, Boots’ anti-ageing products are a part of enabling that future. It’s not an aggressive push, but there’s a clear brand and product logic and a positive message behind it. Think “Like A Girl” but a bit more subtle.

Visually and musically it’s just stunning. The movement, the contrasting styles, the passion and the movement of the music – it’s all beautifully put together. The little moments – the younger Ferri looking to the older, their coming together at the end – they feel genuinely emotional. They feel full of life.

And with no script, Ferri’s personality and strength shine through far stronger than if she were spouting your usual beauty ad lines. As is pretty well established at this point, I’m a sucker for a stripped down, clean piece of short, strong copy.

(No extraneous words, no blathering on and on with unnecessary text and freewheeling that adds nothing to the conversation and drags you on with increasing bewilderment and boredom. No sir. I hate that.)

It’s a bold move to directly contrast the older and younger versions of a woman in an ad, bringing them in sharp relief while selling a product that is explicitly supposed to “hide away” the imperfections that age brings. Done poorly and it comes as cynical, a guilt-laden ploy to shame women into covering up their age/their weaknesses/the fact that they don’t have a penis (quelle horreur).

But this spot is all the better for that contrast of young and old.

Ferri does certainly looks older. She looks her age; she looks worn and unvarnished.

By god she looks powerful though. I wouldn’t want to go toe to toe with her.

(Not least because I hear ballerinas basically have claws on their feet. They are much like beautiful, beautiful eagles in that regard.)

It's a little-known fact that Natalie Portman prepared for her role in Black Swan by spending six months catching rabbits up in the Rocky Mountains.
Her younger self is beautiful and talented. But her present self has the confidence, the authority and the self-possession of a queen. The message? That growing up does mean ageing – of course – but ageing doesn’t mean you take a step back. You keep moving forward, like Alessandra Ferri.

That is the power of this ad.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Asda: Every Little Helps

This one isn’t so much about advertising. It’s more about how sometimes, the best PR happens when you simply create an environment for simple, good deeds.

(Yes, apparently doing nice things can make people think that you’re nice. I also recently heard that the Pope is a practising Catholic.)

But the story I want to talk about is this one – an Asda store manager in Manchester taking a very small, but powerful decision to introduce a “quiet hour” for shoppers, and especially those who struggle with loud, busy places due to autism.

The screens go off.

The escalators halt.

Voices are kept to a minimum.

It’s a simple but powerful gesture.

And no, it isn’t earth-shattering. It’s certainly not the basis for a mass media campaign, and it can’t be. But there’s something simple, identifiable and attractive about a shop that takes a little step to help even just a little part of their community that feels underserved.

More interesting, more eye-catching, and more memorable as a brand offering than your standard bland slogan.

And there’s another point you can make about the “quiet hour”. We always assume supermarkets have to be brand-consistent, blaring music, jauntily tuned and brightly coloured behemoths. But there’s something to be said for stripping back the sound and fury, for subtracting rather than adding to the noise.

Something to think about. Possibly something for a future article.

But for now – time to shut up.