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CREATIVE STRATEGY: The O2 sale is mostly a fail

As a creative, one has to pretend that all briefs are created equal. This is, of course, nonsense.

O2: press ad makes for a very flat communication

O2: press ad makes for a very flat communication

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Just as we've all recovered from being stuffed with Christmas advertising, along come the sales. And it’s quite clear that the latter brief is an even harder nut to crack than the Yuletide proposition.

Back in the dim and distant, sale briefs were the preserve of retailers  – for example: "There is only one Harrods. There is only one sale." No more. Banks and even telecoms companies have decided to get in on the act.

This certainly creates more come-and-get-yourself-a-bargain noise during January. But are the tills ringing? And what does sale-styled advertising do for the brand? 

Take O2. The agency has done its best. There is an idea. If Santa didn’t bring you the smartphone you wanted for Christmas, buy one now.

This is dramatised with imagery of those paper sky-lanterns that people release with a wish. Fair enough. And on film, they’re certainly very pretty.

But when we get to the press ad, the lanterns just add to the clutter of a very flat communication. "January Sale". That’s your best headline? You can have a point for clarity. But no more. 

In the local O2 store, the lanterns come to life in three dimensions, and with the luxury of some space, they’re quite eye-catching. But what happens when you get to the meat of the message? The usual telecoms gobbledegook that reads like the small print of a contract. No attempt at persuasion, let alone wit. 

If you’re shopping around for a smartphone, presumably your first stop would be the comparison sites? Not trawling along the freezing high street. So O2’s advertising has to work even harder. 

I can’t help feeling that client and agency should have spent much more time on generating a compelling claim or promise, rather than faffing around with little blue balloons.

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones

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