Category Archives: Advertising and Branding Assignments

‘The Force’ of Volkswagen

One of the most shared adverts in 2011 was ‘The Force’ advert by Volkswagon which racked up 4.8 million shares across social networks since it was realised online. The advert features a young boy dressed up as a ‘mini Darth Vader’ testing out his ‘force’ on household objects and indeed the family dog – but with no avail. His father comes home, driving a new Volkswagen Passat and teases him with his remote control central locking.

I wanted to talk about this advert because it’s very different to the car adverts we normally see – where the car is the main focus. We are so used to seeing elegant cars being driven around hillsides or cities or country roads (often with sleeping children in the back). This advert features the car being driven for literally four seconds and parked in an ordinary driveway. Its appearance does not even take place until halfway through the advert. This approach, of not forcing the car and having something else going, would have greatly contributed to it going viral. In fact there is so little focus on the product that you could probably miss that it was a car advert. From what I have learned about viral advertising, this lack of product or brand is a very important aspect of the medium. In true viral spirit the Volkswagen logo appears at the end in a black screen but the advert would hold it’s own as a video and story without it.

Other than that fact it has remote central locking, comes in silver and would be a suitable family car the advert conveys very little about the car. It’s a long way off from some of the original car adverts I have been researching where they were packed full of every feature possible. During my advertising and branding module my lecturer has stressed the importance of advertising the benefits of a product – rather than it’s features. I have picked up on this before, but it basically means show people what it can do for them, rather than how it does it. You could say this advert shows that you can have some fun with central locking…

Anyway, In theory, it’s merging together two modern day associations, almost stereotypes you could say: men, cars and star wars. By using a (very talented) young boy they manage to combine all of these in a very charming way and rather than the cliché being forgotten, it’s enjoyed. Volkswagen’s communications manager, Danny Hill commented:

‘It’s a charming ad with great music and has the universal appeal of Star Wars. It captures the imagination and ties in well with our message about the Passat’s clever technology. It was such a success in the States that it seemed a shame not to share it with a wider UK audience.’

The decision to show the advert in the UK would have been easy since they knew how popular it had been, not only in America but online as well. Unfortunately I cannot find any information about an online pre-test of the advert before it aired on television in America. I believe that one of it’s first television appearances was during the America Super Bowl. The decision to air it in this very expensive time-slot was not just because of the amount of people watching it but instead because a large majority of the people watching fell into their target market.

A blooper video of the advert was also released by Volkswagen (clever idea!)


Listerine Zero Advert – Simply Illustrating

I really do not have an awful lot to say about this advert, other than the fact that I think it’s really, really good. It’s simple, gets the point across – with not a lot of fuss and has a slight quirkiness about it. The screen splitting between to opposites, represented by two woman keeps the momentum going – and your attention.

I had a lot of bother finding the advert on the internet and it would not embed but if you click here you can watch it.

Neither woman’s taste is criticised and they put across that we all just have different tastes – without implying that one is better or more acceptable than the other. The product is kept until the end and whilst it is a bit of a surprise that they are talking about mouthwash you understand that it is perfectly related to the advert.

I bought Listerine a few years ago and whilst I did like it, I found it too strong. On seeing this advert, I immediately thought I am going to try that. It’s a long time since I did that – seen an advert for something and decided there and then that I would buy it. This demonstrates that sometimes simple, effective communication in advertising can still do the trick.

The Failure of La Femme

I have been reading a lot about how car advertising changed after the First World War. The development of efficient mass-production for munitions during the war allowed car manufacturers to take advantage of the technology after it. The result was reduced production costs that in turn lead to reduced car prices – making  cars more affordable. American car brands in particular even tried to push the idea of the ‘two car family’ as you can see from this Chevrolet advert below:

From this advert (published in Driving it Home by Judy Vaknin (2008)) you can see that the consumer is clearly a woman, the wife in the family. The customer however is a man, her husband, who will purchase the car. The photograph shows two woman with the car, one of whom is at the wheel; yet the advert is speaking to men: “Is your wife. . .”. In fact they even say “The wife finds it of every day utility for shopping, taking the children to school. . . etc” They are talking directly to men and telling him what his wife will use it for. They also presume that the man they are speaking to already owns a car but uses it himself to go to work.

The advert also backs up the need for a second car by saying that it is a perfectly reasonable concept, so much so that modern houses are already being built with twin garages. In fact it is a ‘must’ that they are.

Overall you can see from this that at the time of this advert, (1923) the decision to buy a car was made by a man, both when it came to buying his own car and that of his wives. Fast forward about three decades and things had changed quite considerably. The levelling out of the sexes that occurred in the years following the Second World War seen advertisers starting to market to woman directly.

They did not always get it right however as I have been reading in Brand Failures by Matt Haig (2003):

Apparently Chrysler created La Femme, the first car designed specifically for woman. They believed that the car should have flowers, accessories, a girly name, seats decorated with a rosebud tapestry and a burgundy carpet… I found some images of the car and a couple of the advertisements that were used:


Dodge sent out a very enthusiastic letter about the car which Haig includes in the Brand Failures book. It finished off by stating that the car was a ‘drawing card’ which no other dealer group had. The letter produced a few orders from dealers but the majority of the cars remained in the showroom. The car was a complete flop. The printed advertisements and indeed the car itself was seen as patronising by the majority of woman. Haig comments:

‘This was, after all, appealing to a classic male ideal of femininity, rather than how the 1950’s woman actually saw herself’

He goes on to say that the main lesson from this brand failure is not to patronise your customer. I would also say that the importance of talking to your customer and doing market research is highlighted by this example to. Design for your customer, not yourself or indeed your vision of your customer.

I would also note that from this research I can see that it was society which changed, rather than the car advertisers changing society. It was the World Wars, both the first and the second that caused the market to change and the adverts of the times simply followed the changing culture.


GM Points = Brand Loyalty

I had a very interesting conversation with someone today about their car and why they purchased it. They did not have time for a full interview but they did share with me why they always bought Vauxhall cars:

The GM (General Motors) Visa credit card gives shoppers points every time they use it which build up and earn you money off of a car. This man told me that he used the card for everything from his food shopping to his mortgage payments. Over a couple of years he will build up a few thousand pounds which he can redeem against the price of a new Vauxhall car.

I found this really interesting because I never expected a car company to do this. In my very first lecture my tutor told us about the Ansoff Matrix, here is a quick snap of it from me lecture notes:

You could say that GM have developed their product and diversified into an unrelated area by producing a credit card. However, this area is not too unrelated because cars do deal with finance. Not only have they then diversified their company into a kind of service, they have linked it back to their original business. Of course the credit card is a Visa credit card but this partnership will benefit both companies. I think it is a very good example of promotion and diversification working together. It is also a strategy for creating brand loyalty.

(I should note down that GM credit card unfortunately declared bankruptcy a few years ago and only existing customers were allowed to keep their points for a certain number of years before claiming them or losing them)

Celebrity Endorsements and Potatoes

I seen the second part of the Albert Barlet Rooster Potatoes advert a few days ago and it prompted me to look into celebrities in advertising. Marcia Cross is the last celebrity you would expect to be advertising potatoes – in fact there are very few you would. What I like about this advert is that in a Skoda-esque way it plays up to this very idea. Here is the first advert:

This is the follow-up one:

Her red hair is one of the more obvious reasons they chose her, apposed to say any of the other Desperate Housewives. (It’s the fact that the potatoes are red which makes them different from regular potatoes) I suppose Bree being a chef helps as well. However it’s the fact that she doesn’t fit that actually makes it work. It’s the element of surprise, especially in the second one where she could just as easily be talking about her hair. I must admit I also like how they are slightly lampooning hair adverts too.

I decided to do some research about using celebrities in advertising. In a recent lecture my tutor told us about the failure of the Sainsburys adverts featuring John Cleese. These adverts featured him as an eccentric running about the store with a megaphone, shouting at the staff and making them look foolish. I looked it up to find that the campaign was done by the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO agency who were trying to communicate the message of “value worth shouting about”. Unfortunately the sudden shift from promoting their quality (which Sainsburys had always did in the past, at that time) to then promoting their value was not well received. On top of this the actual staff of Sainsburys were unhappy with the message it sent out about them. I can see why too, it was when you think about it, disrespectful to deem it funny to have someone shouting at them. I read an old article on where Stefano Hatfield, the editor of Campaign magazine said:

“John Cleese is the last resort of people who have run out of ideas”

If you look at Sainsburys adverts now, John Cleese is a long way off from Jamie Oliver who greatly helped to rescue their brand image. This got me thinking about how brands know which celebrities to chose. I would imagine they would want someone who perhaps had a connection to the product.For example, Jamie Oliver is related to Sainsburys because people know him as a television chef thus has an association with good food. In this way he is related to the brand because of his skills and talents. Besides this, his image as a husband and father will help too as it’s something he has in common with families, particularly mums, doing the weekly shop (who I imagine would be a very important section of Sainsburys target market)

According to the Advertising Handbook there has to be a certain amount of synergy between the brand, the celebrity and indeed the target audience. If they manage to strike a good balance then the ‘cultural capital’ that the celebrity has will convert into ‘economical capital’ for the brand. So basically, the seal of approval from a celebrity who people recognise or trust or look-up to will encourage them to recognise, trust and hopefully buy the product. On choosing the celebrity to do this, Helen Powell comments in the Handbook that:

“. . . the value of a celebrity to an advertising campaign and the brand they are endorsing comes from what they represent: a particular image that consumers identify with and wish to buy into. This might be affiliated to their looks, their lifestyle, their personality or a particular skill set, or any combination of these”

Looking back at what I said about Jamie Oliver I can see how people would like to buy into his image as a good cook who likes cooking for his family and friends. Powell goes on to say that in advertising people draw upon what they know about the celebrity and embed that into their interpretation of the advert. You could say this is simply a connotation. What is important however is that you could not achieve the effect of this connotation in a normal advert. The association people have with the celebrity and the emotional attachment they might have towards them is something that has built up over a long period of time. I can now see and understand that this is the value of celebrities. It’s their reputation and their association that is worth something. I just wonder how this worth relates to the actual cost of hiring them…

Beanz Meanz Heinz

Have you seen the new Heinz Beans advert?


I am afraid I must admit that I really do not like it at all. It reminded me of the Green Giant ‘you are what you eat advert’ where the boys quickly tuck into the sweetcorn thinking they will become giants. In fact the last scene of the Heinz advert is practically a mirror image of it; the mum has just told the boy he might grow up to be a giant so he’s scooping them up! In Heinz defence the advert was playing on Jack and the Beanstalk – a perfect parody for them.

Coincidentally Heinz were trying to promote the same message as Green Giant, that they are one of your 5 a day. This claim has been made by Heniz before, in fact I found an old article on the MarketingWeek website which told of how they had been “slapped on the wrists by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)” because of it. Apparently complaints had been made about HJ Heniz claiming that their canned products are an equivalent to fresh fruit an vegetables. The ASA did not uphold these complaints.

I wonder if Heniz were worried about reiterating the 5 a day then with this advert? I was told in a recent lecture that broadcasting adverts always get ‘pre-vetted’ before they are shown on television simply because they cost so much to be shown. We can therefore presume this advert was okayed by the ASA. In fact they must be pretty confident with it because the label appears on their packaging too. And why should they not be? I mean it is true:

“What counts towards 5 a day?
● Tinned or canned fruit and vegetables”

That statement appears on the NHS website. However they immediately follow it up by saying you should buy the ones with no added sugar or salt. They later comment that beans and pulses only count as one portion, no matter how many you eat. This is because they contain less nutrients than other fruit and vegetables. Below this statement they then make a comment about convenience foods:

“Fruit and veg in convenience foods, such as ready meals and shop-bought pasta sauces, soups and puddings. Some ready-made foods are high in salt, sugar and fat, so only have them occasionally or in small amounts”

So there we go. Heinz probably were not worried about the advert being banned because even the NHS website say’s we’re allowed to eat them, occasionally.

Nevertheless they will get some grumbles about it. Now of course people complaining about your adverts generates extra publicity. Depending on the nature of your company and the nature of the complaint this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Take Benetton for example, they revelled in the outrage they caused and it didn’t harm their image. Some may even say it helped it, although I feel that remains debatable.

Would bad press about nutrition and the ingredients used in Heniz products help Heniz image? Is the brand enough of an institution to stand up to it? My answer would be: why bother finding out. The loophole that the NHS website gives them is nothing to shout about. It’s not as Seth Cohen, author of the Purple Cow, would say remarkable. He argues against advertising at all unless you have something new and amazing going on.

“If you do nothing, at least you’re not going to short-circuit your existing consumer networks by loading them up with a lot of indefensible junk”

The NHS website proved that the 5 a day claim was not “indefensible junk” but I would argue that it is deficient junk that’s already been peddled by Heniz before. Cohen suggests taking a leaf from companies such as Ben&Jerrys when it comes to advertising. Here is a quick shot from my notebook on the Purple Cow:

The thing with Heinz is that they actually do have something new to shout about. They have re-sealable fridge packs!


That’s remarkable. In fact that’s revolutionising the way we store the product. I presume the beans will taste better if they’ve been stored better so it’s almost a form of product control! More importantly what the fridge pack does is put’s beans back on our radar. Your much more likely to notice them your the fridge than stacked away in your cupboard with your tinned fruit.

What is also remarkable is that in a lecture a few weeks ago my lecturer started talking about beans on toast. (It was in reference to the comfort and nostalgia factor in advertising). He showed us this old advert:


I had that jingle, the entire thing from “a million housewife’s…” in my head for a good few days. The next night I had this huge craving for beans on toast so I had them for dinner. I have not had beans on toast for a good two to three years. Just someone talking about beans on toast, mentioning having beans on toast for tea or when your in a hurry or when you need something comforting to eat, really, really made me want to have some beans on toast!

Heinz could simply get people talking about beans on toast as a form of advertising. Talk about them on social networking sites such as twitter for example. Facebook might even be better as they could ask people about their favourite memories of beans on toast or other things they have with beans. Do they like them hot or cold?

They could also take advantage of the new Tv product placement rules and have characters stacking shelves of Heinz beans; buying them; opening the cans. I wonder if you could show a character eating beans on toast? If not then I bet if they just had a giant picture of beans on toast on a billboard and if nothing else it would increase sales and not damage the brand.

The Penalty of Leadership

I have been reading Driving it Home by Judy Vaknin (2008) who mentions that this advert below, by Cadilac in 1915, marked a definitive change in car advertising style and attitude.

In a very similar way to the Apple Macintosh 1984 television advert, this advert was only printed once, in the Saturday Evening Post. If you read it, there is no mention of a car at all in the text. Instead, it is a very grand narrative about the qualities and difficulties faced by leaders. There is a strong suggestion of envy and ambition within the sentences. I found this sentence quite significant:

“Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a Mountebank. Long after the big world had acclaimed him as its greatest artistic genius”

By saying ‘our own Whistler’ they have cleverly endeared themselves to the American public by being patriotic. Snippets like this captured people’s imaginations and were seen as inspirational and motivational narratives. Elvis Presley had a framed copy of it on his office wall in Graceland. To this day, Cadalic have had requests for copies of the text. Many leading advertisers cite it as the best copy-writing of all time.

I wonder if it was just brilliant copy-writing or was there anything else that made it such success? From my reading of the book, the adverts previous to this were full of car illustrations (some more daring than others) technical descriptions and prices, all advertising the car they were selling. This one didn’t do any of these but more significantly advertised the brand. In the original publication only the Cadilac logo appeared on the border in a very small size. Thus implying the brands status as a leader. Therefore, being the leader in a new style of advertising greatly contributed to it’s success. It was an advert of it’s time; it was relevant; it was cashing in on the imagination and culture of people of that time. It spoke to people in a different way and made them feel something, made them want to be something rather than making them want a car. It was the first non-direct advertisement, the first use, if you like, of the power of association.