In 2012, the Guardian released its last blockbuster TV ad, at least for the foreseeable future. Three Little Pigs was a big moment in advertising – beautifully crafted and stuffed full of a big idea (of how journalism is a complex, open-source beast that the public could play its part in shaping), the ad was loved by the public and showered in awards by the industry.
Watching it now though, it speaks of another era, in both the media and in advertising. Its rather naïve, optimistic message of how the public influencing the news agenda will be a wholeheartedly good thing now feels a little painful to watch. And in ad terms it all seems a bit, well, self-indulgent, particularly for an organisation that has been open about its financial struggles.
The Guardian’s marketing efforts today seem lean and focused in comparison. Much of it is focused on its requests for support or subscriptions, via an ongoing message about the power of its editorial independence – “Our journalism is free from the influence of billionaire owners or politicians” – but also on the promotion of its sub-brands, such as its dating site Guardian Soulmates (see top), or particular aspects of its output, such as VR. The work certainly doesn’t lack charm – the Guardian has always recognised the power of design and is naturally good with words – but the message is arguably less dramatic and all-encompassing than previous efforts have been.