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Dominic Mills 

Resolution ads, jabs & ‘Humaning’ part two

Resolution ads, jabs & ‘Humaning’ part two

Dominic Mills looks at the current batch of ads tempting us into new resolutions for 2021

As usual at this time of year, and in common with millions, I went into January thinking about how I might do things differently.

As usual, apart from an obsessive daily-steps target brought on by my Pedometer app, I have failed to come up with anything more concrete than a few ‘I might do this’ and ‘I might do that’ ideas. And, of course, I feel bad about that.

However, reading a column last week in the New Statesman, which described New Year resolutions as essentially an act of self-loathing, some of my guilt has faded away.

Self-loathing aside, brands have always seen New Year as a time to play this card: gym memberships, diets (like Veganuary), at-home leisure, banking/saving and so on have been the staple of this kind of activity.

As Covid has brought fundamental changes to the way we work, eat and entertain ourselves, the consumer mindset is more receptive to new ideas.

This time round then, the combination of New Year resolutions and Covid offers brands even more fertile territory to change consumer behaviour, or at least nudge them in their direction. A change of habit could mean a change of brand or the addition of a new one to the individual’s repertoire.

TSB brings us David Schwimmer, choogling round Britain in an old VW camper van telling us about new account features which, in the staid world of current account banking, look a bit different.

It’s mildly amusing and at least it’s different from the bank’s irritatingly twee old animation ads. Yeah, I might change my bank.

Carlsberg too, seeking to cash in on ‘Dry January’ sentiment (intolerable to me any year but especially now) with its 0.0% beer through Mads Mikkelsen.

Apparently alcohol-free lager improves your tennis — if only courts were open. My backhand is crap but even so.

Home cooking is obviously an activity on the up, a trend the recipe boxes are all over. Gousto is fast out of the traps this year with Give it Some, which shows householders cooking recipes inspired by their music choices, a neat device which allows it to combine those two favourite ad-land themes: food porn and a banging soundtrack.

Tempting, but my prejudice against recipe boxes is the way they make you feel trapped.

If it’s not travel — and it certainly isn’t looking likely any time soon— new year must equal new sofas and home makeovers, never more so than now.

Ikea is entertainingly combining this with an eco-message, also on-trend.

Uplifting and a little bit inspiring.

The year of the electric car as mainstream gets ever closer. It’s exactly the kind of resolution, perhaps only a vague one, that might actually get turned into a reality by an ad at the right time.

That was clearly the thinking behind this press ad (apologies for the slightly crumpled picture) from Polestar headlined ‘New Year’s resolutions’.

“Readers”, it pleads, “if you’re looking for a new car, consider an electric one. Any electric car.” Hmmm…who or what the hell is Polestar? With such a generic plea, it sounds like an industry collective.

It’s an intriguing and eye-catching ad that had the desired effect: go online to find out more.

It turns out that Polestar is a new brand, part of Volvo or, to be more accurate, China’s Zhejiang Geely, which is not a name that rolls off the tongue.

Anyway, I was intrigued and tempted — and the cars look mighty cool too — until I learnt that the first model available in the UK costs just shy of £50,000.

As New Year asks go, that is demanding a lot of the consumer, however firm their resolution on 1 January.

But many other brands don’t seem to have got their acts together, peddling the same old messages or using old tactics.

A BT.com ad offers discounts but only to new users. As an existing BT customer I say ‘bastards’. Haven’t they learnt yet?

Jab and complain

There’s something about Ryanair that is in equal parts infuriating and entertaining. But however much it might annoy, there’s no denying that it is a savvy and highly opportunistic marketer.

And so it was that, with the Pfizer vaccine approved, Ryanair was fast out of the traps with an ad encouraging us to ‘Jab and Go’. It seems perfectly logical to me — who isn’t hankering to book something.

Equally fast were the complaints to the ASA, some 1,600 within a few days, on the grounds that it was misleading and insensitive.

This is pretty much a standard complaint that seems to be levelled at all Ryanair ads, sometimes with justification.

We shall see: the ASA is looking at the ad under its special Covid complaints procedure. I bet most of you didn’t even know it had one, let alone what the rules are.

As far as I can see, the ad doesn’t break any of the ASA guidelines on Covid. Given that a fair chunk of its market comprises silver surfers — higher up in the jabs queue —  taking short city breaks, it seems justifiable.

Of course, it’s bloody annoying to anyone who isn’t going to get jabbed anytime soon, but that’s never been grounds enough to ban an ad.

‘Humaning’, part 2

In case you missed it, one of the laugh-out-loud moments of 2020 was caused by Mondelez’s pronouncement in November that, in future, all its marketing would be built on the concept of ‘humaning’. Widespread derision followed.

You’d think marketers might learn from this, but their ability to deliver vacuous nonsense in a tone of utter seriousness shows no sign of being dimmed, never more so than when they are asked to pronounce on the big trends of 2021.

In this spirit I bring you Thomas Ranese, vice president of global marketing at Uber, who told Marketing Week that the big thing for him was the return to “real-world marketing”.

Apparently he’s excited about working for Uber because “it’s actually in the physical world” — as opposed to what I don’t know. But that’s the thing about digital services like Uber: they may be virtual, but their customers are, well, you know, real.

Anyway, you can read (and chuckle) at his thoughts here — fourth one down.

Me, I’m struggling to understand if there is any other kind of marketing other than real-world. Fantasy world maybe. Parallel universe, perhaps.

But let me offer my thanks to the likes of Mondelez and Uber. Keep these tablets of wisdom coming. We need all the fun we can get.

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