A month ago I lectured at a French University about advertising. My ambition was to share my passion about this profession while killing some myths... I was glad to see in the eyes of my students (I love writing that) the same sparkle that I had at their age (I hate writing that, dammit).
We discussed at length the elements that make a good ad, trying to identify the key factor of success of a campaign: innovation, engagement, integration... However, I now realise that I did not refer to how great ads are rewarded for their success. I am not talking about the dusty trophies decorating agency halls, but about evidences that an ad has truly cut through to be adopted and endorsed by the entire society.
So when can you tell that an ad is a success? Probably when it manages to get out of the advertising space and blend in our daily life. A French example comes instantly to my mind: Cadum. Cadum is a soap brand created in 1907 and later acquired by Colgate. Its brand icon was a baby, the "Bébé Cadum", whose skin was obviously soft, healthy, etc... Thanks to the packaging and the advertising, the expression "Bébé Cadum" became such a norm that you could almost no longer dissociate both words. A nice toddler was de facto a Baby Cadum, as a giant was... green. The word "Baby" was in a sense totally branded. A branding that lasted beyond the product...
As a matter of fact the brand disappeared more or less in the 80s but one thing remained... Its usage as a substantive. Back then, although they had never been in contact with the product or the brand, toddlers were shouting at each other: "You are a Baby Cadum!" I know this too well: I used to be one of these loud talkers in nappies... And trust me, when you were called a "Bébé Cadum" in a schoolyard, that was a call for war. The youngest were ridiculed by the older, until they can revenge the following year when they finally were no more freshmen and could rule the world, or at least the kindergarten. And so the word passed from generation to generation.
The success of humour.
There is another situation which illustrates that an ad has truly managed to become a reference: when it is spoofed. After all if other people, be it brands, humorists, film directors, copy your codes that definitely means that you have reached a certain level of awareness. Otherwise the reference would be void, would not it?
To illustrate this, I have selected three great examples of TV commercials which were spoofed by other brands, three of the most successful and awarded ads of the last years. I have displayed them so that you can enjoy the original first, and then appreciate its spoof:
- Sony Bravia "Balls": Fallon demonstrates the richness of the colour palette provided by the Sony LCD screens using thousands of bouncing balls thrown away in the street of San Francisco. The spoof? Tango, a British fruit drink that has been renowned for years for its madness...
- Honda "Cog": Wieden+Kennedy London actions all the individual elements of a car to make things work. The spoof? The Number and its 118 118 fellows.
- Cadburry "Gorilla": a pure moment of pleasure provided by Fallon again, just like the one provided by a Cadburry chocolate. The spoof? Wonderbra, a pure moment of pleasure, just like the one provided by the lingerie.
To become such myths, these brands have accepted to let go and not tried to control everything. Their brands have been turned into mere adjectives, their ads into jokes... But to a certain extend, these are just the signs of a great empathy between the brand and its consumers. And the empowerment of your audience becomes even more critical nowadays with the rise of the internet-based social networks. Communities have now the tools to communicate, and brands have always been a center part of discussions. So if they want to follow the pace of their consumers, brands need to accept the rules. And being hijacked could be a possibility. For some brands this is even an ambition, since it would signify that they had become a reference.