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Nov 2010

How far can advertising be taken?

Posted in Advertising | 0 Comments

Today, pinging around the web, I came across a rather interesting little beta. AdKeeper is a little tool that places a small button on every banner ad in your browser. Using the tool allows you to scrapbook banner ads to look at later.

This is an odd concept, and not just because most banner ads you see are either for terrible action-adventure films with budgets bigger than the brains behind the cameras, or the predictably testosterone-fuelled ads for MMORPGs full of scantily-clad women. But there are a genuine few that are fantastic, like the ones that offer little minigames, or ones that have smart advertising copy you might want to take as inspiration for some work you’re doing on a similar project.

I like the idea of keeping my favourite adverts. A long time ago, there was an advert for the Volkswagen Golf that blew my mind. It was a remix, visually and musically, of Gene Kelly’s signature scene from Singing in the Rain, with a street/breakdancing twist. It was one of the most creative uses of music in advertising I’ve ever seen and the remixed song went on to do fairly well, too. But I couldn’t scrapbook it, and of course finding an upload of that ad before the true rise of YouTube was a bit of a nightmare.

But scrapbooking banner ads raises an interesting question: are we really choosing examples of design that we enjoy, or are we, as happy little consumers, enjoying the brief flutter of excitement we get from seeing our favourite advert? Think about how many people would see year-old adverts if they saved the banner! It’s an endless supply of advertising well after the company sells the ad space, and it’s being done by willing consumers who don’t even notice. Genius, when you think about it, as you get to save your favourite ad and the company gets to show you it every time you go to take another peek at the thing.

The other odd thing I saw this morning was the fact that the Chilean miners were each given a pair of sunglasses on their exit. This I knew already, having avidly followed the event myself. But what I didn’t know was that they were Oakley sunglasses. So, for the cost of 35 pairs (at a value of $6300) of glasses and a little shipping charge, they got $41 million’s worth of exposure. Outrageous, say some, but truly, you’ve got to admire it. It was possibly the most subtle use of advertising anyone’s ever seen, and they got away with it save for those who wrote about it on smaller blogs.

I’d love to see that happen in other places, because if you work in Oakley’s marketing department and you weren’t high-fiving each other by that point, you should have done. Of course, American Idol has barely-censored Coca-Cola glasses, almost every American television drama contains a Blackberry (Grey’s Anatomy), a Macbook (Dexter) or Smirnoff Vodka (Mad Men) and we’re forgetting the epic amounts of brand names every time we walk or film outdoors. But to do it on national news sets a new, ever-so-slightly chilling precedent, that these miners probably knew nothing about the brand of the glasses, but just put them on to preserve their sight.

It’s manipulative, of course it is, but at the same time I doubt they were complaining when they were given a shedload of other gifts, though in reality their true reward was to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors and know that they could spend time with their families again – and, I’d imagine, quit their job at the mine. Not all of them will ever fully recover, but the world took care of them and it was an amazing coup by Chile as it was possibly the best possible advert for their goverment’s nice side.

Whether you’re clipping Hyundai banners or checking out Oakley sunglasses after watching the news, advertising’s control on you simply depends on how you respond to it. If you accept the product and move on, you’re in control, even if you keep the ad because it was cool. You live in a world of unprecedented choice, and all you’ve got to do is shop around for the stuff you like. Advertising is now offering us little products live on Sky News, CNN and the BBC. Now if they can work a Macbook into the recent Wikileaks success story, Steve Jobs will have officially won the internet.

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