A bottle of Magners Mr Bond?

An Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger. Exp...

An Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger. Expensive items are often part of a glamorous lifestyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world has changed. Traditional business models which rely on advertising to keep them afloat have to evolve or die. When you could count the number of TV channels on Mickey Mouse’s left hand, it made sense for companies to pay lots of money to ply their goods over the airwaves. After all, you were guaranteed a decent share of viewers.

Nowadays, with satellite and cable TV, the audience is more fragmented. Not only that, but many households can now record their programs and watch them later, zipping past the adverts in the process. There are internet services available through which programs can be viewed on demand from most of the major channels. Companies like Netflix and Love Film carry a huge catalogue of advert free content available on demand. A growing number of people are not watching broadcast material at all.

To counter this, advertisers have turned to techniques like product placement. If you can persuade a film producer to feature your products, the viewer gets the subliminal message that he or she will be a bit more like the hero if they use a particular brand. I don’t have a problem with the technique per se, providing it’s subtly done and fits in with the overall film.

In the books, James Bond drove a Bentley. In the transition to screen, his steed of choice is an Aston Martin. I’m OK with that. I can understand that someone who likes Bentleys might also like Aston Martins. When I see him jump into a BMW, it stretches my belief. Would the quintessentially British spy really choose a Teutonic behemoth like a 7 series? When they turn Bond into a lager swilling Mondeo driver, something in my head says “hold on a minute…”

Today I learned that advertisers are experimenting with a new method of product placement. In post production, they digitally splice in the footage of the product they are trying to promote. Maybe they change an advertising hoarding in the background to reflect something suitable to the local audience or maybe they place a can of soft drink prominently on a table in the foreground. Because it is done after the fact, the film could be customised for different audiences.

I’m not sure I like this idea. It might mean that you never see the same film twice. The first time you watch the classic Ice Cold in Alex, you will see a very thirsty John Mills sink a Carlsberg. The next time you see it, he might be drinking a bottle of WKD Blue. Can we really trust the advertisers to splice in content that matches the film?

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Weasel words

Advertising advertising

Advertising advertising (Photo credit: Toban Black)

Without advertising, many of the services we enjoy would either no longer be free or they would cost a lot more. How would you feel about paying for every Google search you make? Or would you pay a monthly fee for Facebook? How about Twitter? How would you feel if your daily newspaper cost twice as much or if your satellite TV bill was similar to your mortgage?

To most people, advertising is something they put up with and maybe sometimes complain about, but the alternative to advertising is often unpalatable. However much you complain about advertising, if it wasn’t there, you would pay more if that advertising wasn’t there.

Most of the adverts we see nowadays are a good deal more advanced and agencies have budgets that could only be dreamed about before. Most modern adverts resemble mini blockbusters with an all-star cast, an expensive soundtrack and cinematography that wouldn’t look out of place in a blockbuster premier.

With the advent of social media, advertisers are hunting for the holy grail – they want an advert to become viral. If they can make their story entertaining enough, armies of Facebook and twitter users will do all the hard work of making sure that the advert gets to a much wider audience and all at no additional cost to the advertiser.

I have a lot of respect for a finely crafted advert. I love the Honda advert where all the car components roll, swing or fall into each other in a complex chain reaction in order to switch on a piece of music. Allegedly, they filmed it without any CGI and admittedly after numerous attempts, the final advert was one complete take. I also like the gorilla playing the drums for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and the man sliding through the city on a helter-skelter to a Doobie Brothers soundtrack for Barclaycard.

I hold a special kind of loathing for lazy or misleading adverts. Shot on a lower budget, they tend to go along the lines of “We’ve got some cheap stuff. Come and buy it.” They tend to be characterised by advertising weasel words. Typically, phrases like “up to x% off”, “everything must go”, “massive reductions” or “biggest ever sale”.

Up to 50% off means that the price could have been reduced anywhere from 0 – 50% and guess which end of the scale most products will lie. I thought the whole point of retailing is to sell your stock so everything must go is more a statement of the seller’s fervent desire. I’ll be the judge of how massive your reductions are and when you say it’s your biggest sale ever, how exactly are you measuring that? By the vendor’s expectations?

If I ever commissioned an advert, I would definitely strive for the viral audience by putting some effort into it. Your audience will appreciate the experience rather than endure it and you never know, they might tell a friend.