Thursday, July 12, 2007

What can we learn from: ADVERTISING SPOOFS

The explosion of and entry into the mainstream of the - slightly judgmentally named - "user generated content" phenomena has created a veritable goldmine of "user generated advertising spoofs".

Youtube, for example, has loads and so if you search for your brand on the site, should you be pleased, excited or completely dismayed to find your advertising has been spoofed, mimicked, parodied or mocked?

I looked up the meaning of the word "spoof" in my favorite dictionary ( to make sure I spoke on topic. defines a spoof is “a mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good-humored”, and a thesaurus talks about “caricature

I think there are some very telling things that you can learn if you find that your advertising has been the subject of "user generation" spoofs.

In my view, these learnings relate to the key principles underpinning all successful communication:
  • (1) BRAND IMPACT (getting the attention of consumers and making sure they remember who you are);
  • (2) COMMUNICATION ON-STRATEGY (getting a simple single minded message across to consumers that they recall successful and associate with your brand) and
  • (3) PERSUASION (getting them to react in some way).

So if you search on youtube, or similar, and find consumer generated interpretations of your brand here is what you can learn based on what you find:

The good news is that you seem to have made some kind of mark!

People are aware of your communication and recall it as being you. If they didn't they wouldn't have been able to replicate the format or structure, and make fun of your brand. You could argue that the greater the number of user generated versions, probably the greater number of people moved in some way by the ad.

This is probably the most important.

Good news: If you have a creative idea!
In my view, the good news is that if you have a big creative idea you will have confirmation that you do. You will find that users have taken your core creative big idea and reworked it, this time with a new story or take on it.

This means that you have an idea that intrigues them. An idea that they felt moved enough to respond to.

As a marketer, taking a look at these spoofs will help you to understand just how intriguing and clear your idea is. The biggest learning, and greatest excitement, being if the "user generated version" of your big creative idea has taken it and found a new and exciting way of telling the same story. This is, after all, what people should be able to do with any creative idea. It is not about reworking a "template" and structure - it is about telling a story.

For example, Lynx/ Axe Body Spray has the creative idea “The Lynx/ Axe Effect”. The smell of the spray making a man irresistible to women, who thrown themselves at men (usually slightly geeky looking or very ordinary or unremarkable men).

One great example of spoof I saw online was called “The REAL Lynx Effect”. This shows a man bringing a woman home for a late night “cup of coffee”, she goes to his bathroom to freshen up and sees the Lynx/ Axe can and flees – realizing that she is under some spell and the guy may not be as hot and attractive as she imagined. This could quite easily be made and run as an ad in the series! If I was the Lynx/ Axe brand team I would see this as flattery rather than a concern

Take a look at a typical Lynx Ad (one of my personal favorites) called Billions: click here

Take a look at the “Real Lynx Effect” user generated interpretation I spoke about above: click here

Bad News: If you have a template or formula!
The bad news is that if all they are doing is simply mocking your predictable structure and formula, or your "template", then you have issues!

Actually in my research for this article, I found that consumers are usually too bored of your formula to do this. However, I did find that "formula" and "template" ads were seen as fair game and rich territrory for Television and Radio Comdedy Sketch shows, such as the UK "Dead Ringers" and USA "Saturday Night Live" formats.

I maybe need to be clear what I mean about a "template" versus a "creative idea". Often marketers and their agencies rely on a template approach as they think it may add to branding by creating a consistent look, or is "equity building". A classic example of this, in my view, is L'Oreal Paris and the "celebrity + here comes the science and facts + end line (not integrated into the idea) of "you're worth it".

Take a look at the original Jane Fonda Age Re-Perfect TV ad and the UK Comedy show "Dead Ringers" send up by clicking on the links or watching them below:

Original Jane Fonda TV Ad:

Comedy version of the Jane Fonda L'Oreal Ad:

And a typical Neutrogena TV ad formula and the USA Saturday Night Live Coin Slot send up.

Typical Neutrogena TV Ad:

The Saturday Night Live Neutrogena "Coin Slot" TV Ad send up

If you look on youtube you do see that creative ideas do catch consumers’ imaginations enough to encourage them to generate something.

How well they do it tells you how good your creative idea is. This makes sense as if you have a creative idea you should expect to see new ways of telling the story in new ways that are relevant to the person making the "ad". It is if you like, a test of the power of your idea. It is something your agency and brand teams should be doing all the time!

It shows relevance!

All successful communication must generate a response. The most important being people buying your product. But what does user generated ad spoofs tell us about how persuasive our ideas are?

If you have a powerful communication message you should expect to see a response. In the "user generated" world you should (in my view) be looking for and even EXPECTING a comment on or back on what you are communicating. You should be seeing a dialogue.

At the risk of being seen as a “Dove” Lover (which I am not as such though admire the fact they developed a brand belief based on attitudes in the world and created a big idea - although unlike some others Unilever has like Lynx/ Axe not linked as much as it should be to the product) it did create a response in the User Generated world in 3 ways interesting and exciting ways:

(1) People posted the adverts, as they felt so motivated by the message they wanted to share them and persuade others of the importance. If you search "Dove" on youtube it is staggering, for example, how many people have posted the ads.

(2) People wanted to challenge and have a dialogue and so posted some, for example, mocking the fact that Dove sold products to correct each of the real people imperfections they were celebrating in the ads: click here for an example. (Or watch it at the end of this posting)

(3) People wanted to respond, and in this case by being thankful there were aspirational good looking people like in ads, media etc to help escape from the reality around them: click here for an example. (Or watch it below).

Of course these people may not buy your product in the end but it has shown that you are standing out above the huge mass of mediocrity.

With consumers getting up to 5000 messages a day, user generated spoofs hopefully show that they are not only remembering yours amongst all that, but who it was from, what you were saying and then being persuaded by the message to respond. This is quite something.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Ad commenting on fact that Dove sell products to deal with the imperfections they say women should be celebrating..

"Slob Evolution" Spoof Example

"Revolution": Using the idea of acceptance/ challenging other current beliefs

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