The banal, stupid and inept world of radio adverts

You know how there are certain things that you can do nothing about, that still get you grinding your teeth although you know you really shouldn’t let them get to you? I’m thinking of things like colleagues who have big fake laughs when they talk to the boss, or friends who sniff all the time.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  November 27, 2005

The banal, stupid and inept world of radio adverts|~||~||~|You know how there are certain things that you can do nothing about, that still get you grinding your teeth although you know you really shouldn’t let them get to you? I’m thinking of things like colleagues who have big fake laughs when they talk to the boss, or friends who sniff all the time. Well, what I can’t work out is why I get quite so irritated about the dreadfully banal, witlessly stupid, frustratingly inept quality of radio advertising in this part of the world. Maybe it’s because I feel patronised as a consumer. In my blind fury, I find myself forgetting that sometimes it isn’t the brand’s fault, but that of the agency making the ad. So when I hear yet another advertisement offering the chance to “instantly win instant prizes” I blame the brand. Either the product is so hopeless it has no benefits of its own to boast about. Or it thinks that I’m so stupid that I’m going to make my purchase decisions on the basis of the extremely small chance of winning a small amount of cash. Either way, I’m left with the idea that the brand has nothing to say to me. Or perhaps it’s that I get angry when I see charlatans and incompetents ripping off naïve clients with scripts that appear to have been banged out after a big lunch. Take this morning’s drive into the office. The first advert I heard — and I won’t name the client because I guess it’s not their fault — was for a flower distributor. It is based entirely on the misunderstandings that ensue when an office worker follows his boss’s instructions to put flowers in the work place. But, get this, the worker, who certainly sounds like a western expat who might just know what flowers are, thinks you should eat the flowers and puts them in a sandwich. Imagine the true-to-life hilarity. The next was for a new car brand. One of the UK’s great adverts of the mid 90s was for Audi — it featured an unpleasant yuppie driving the car round the City of London, before it transpired he was on a test drive. At the end he handed it back with the words “It’s not my style”. The point was to position the car as being too subtle for wannabes. By contrast, the advertisement I listened to today positioned the brand as being driven by a character who is both stupid and anorexic. Who on earth is going to aspire to drive one of those? Or even the Al Ameen police grass hotline, which is just plain sinister. I’m not sure which would be the worse option — if people doing this sort of work are labouring under the misapprehension that they are good, or if they’re just cynically taking the client cash without putting in the effort. Along with woeful scripts, production standards are low, with cheap sound effects and awful acting. Now, as Michael Winner demonstrated in the UK with his naff adverts for Esure, there is sometimes a place for cheesy advertising — if it achieves cut-through. But I disagree with DJ Johnny Vaughan’s comments in our feature on page 18 today. The presenter of the UK’s most listened to commercial breakfast programme spent a few days stuck in Dubai and argues that cheesy is good because listeners remember it. But here, dross among dross does not stand out. It just says the client is too cheap or stupid to get the job done properly. Or perhaps this whole thing annoys me so because of what it does for the image of the rest of the advertising industry. Clients get poor results and write off the effectiveness of advertising, while the public subconsciously reject advertising as the equivalent of a dodgy guy at a souk nagging you to buy one of his fake watches. On the whole, I think I prefer the sniffing and the fake laughs. By the way, the closing date for the Campaign Awards is now just 10 days away. There’s a radio advertising category. I’d love to be proved wrong when all of that great radio work comes pouring in.||**||

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