“I’m Morethan Freeman. Thank you for listening.” The ads are dramatically undramatic, and far too long. And this Morethan character, perched on the roof of a house or car (why always the roof?), looks as much like the star of the Shawshank Redemption as I do. Yet the thing that distinguishes VCCP’s latest campaign (created by the group’s creative agency, SFW) isn’t how mad it is, but how sensible. With this, and comparethemeerkat.com, they’ve created an instant advertising formula that’s logical, quick and simple enough for anyone to follow. In just three easy steps, you too could cook up an internet sensation….
CONFUSE, DON’T COMMUNICATE
Firstly, to create your central character, misspell the name of your product in such a way as to connect it with something more memorable – ideally a cute animal or a celebrity. Associating an unfamiliar idea with a familiar one is a mnemonic technique that was used by those notable proto-admen, Jesuit missionaries, as early as the 15th century. These days it has other advantages: It allows you to deploy all of the machinery of celebrity, Britain’s only remaining heavy industry, in the service of your campaign. It makes it possible for your brand to interact with consumers on social media, without their having to consider the absurdity of befriending a bar of chocolate. And the resulting unique misspelling will trend cleanly on Twitter, giving the brand manager a massive hard-on.
Now you’ve got your star, you’re ready to write your script. You may be tempted to talk about your product, do not do this: no-one is interested in your product, when and if they are they’ll research it on the internet. The purpose of your script is to make Salmon Rushed-DIY into a really credible Booker-Prize-winning CGI fish. This probably runs counter to certain outdated ideas that you may cherish about advertising being communication. The problem with communication, good communication in particular, is that it leaves the consumer with nothing to do. These days what you want is to confuse the consumer just enough that she’ll talk about your campaign incessantly on Facebook.
Which brings us to the coup de grace: add a dash of something almost, but not quite, racist. The ASA says it is racist for a white actor to put on a Jamaican accent (“Mastication for the nation” anyone?), yet for a white impressionist to do Morgan Freeman is not; so long as he doesn’t black up. Likewise it is racist to impersonate an eastern European immigrant with poor English, but probably not if you’re a meerkat. The racist-but-not thing is great, you see, because everyone is neurotic about race, so they’ll need to talk to their friends (on Twitter naturally) just to reassure themselves that their opinion is the right one.
Now run your ad, sit back in your big leather chair and watch it spread across the web, like a nasty rash. This advertising lark is easy when you know how. There’s no need to thank me. And certainly no need for anyone else to go giving VCCP a million quid.
‘Gordon Comstock’ is a creative at a London advertising agency. He writes regularly at notvoodoo.blogspot.com