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Talk of the site: irritating ads, Christmas campaigns and a Malaysian batman

LONDON - At times this week it felt like we'd accidentally stumbled into a roomful of anti-advertising anarchists instead of a gathering of marketing communications professionals. All BR did was ask for nominations for annoying ads to help Marketing magazine brief TNS as it conducts its annual public opinion poll of the year's most 'irritating ads'.

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In this week's round-up, community members have praised and pilloried the early round of Christmas campaigns, argued about junk food advertising, shared tips on global advertising, ranted about the new Eurostar ad and made a reasoned argument about why we all shouldn't be building brands (could this be sedition against The Republic?).

When it comes to irritating ads, it's almost hard to find a brand whose advertising has not been nominated. In particular community members have been vitriolic about Kerry Katona/Iceland and Head & Shoulders' Mickey character.

Other brands nominated include, in no particular order: Specsavers; Nationwide; MFI; BA; Twinings; Cillit Bang; Morrisons; Clearasil; Polaris World; PC World; Oil of Olay; Picture Loans; Orange; Halifax; Sensodyne; Wilkinson Sword; Parker pens; Currys; Trident; Northern Rock; Daz; T-Mobile; confused.com; Bradford & Bingley; Kettle Chips; Eurostar; Nintendo DS/Nicole Kidman; Pringles; Guinness; McCain chips; uswitch.com; injurylawyers4u; Clover; Coca-Cola; Carlsberg; Magners; Maltesers; and Actimal.

L Bilton took Stephen Fry to task: "The Twinings ads with Stephen Fry and his black figure of fun Tyrone. Successfully dusting off a different racial stereotype every episode, a personal favourite being a group of white women who take their tea black and want Tyrone's 'dingaling'. Fry should be ashamed of himself."

Matt Watson was more than irritated: "Anything by PC World [are these deliberately naff? or just naff?], Morrisons [like we really believe that Denise van Outen, Lulu et al nip down to their local grimy Morrisons], Iceland [no explanation needed], Oil of Olay and Nadine Baggott [AAAAAGH]."

J B Beeton, along with much of the BR tribe, can't stand Iceland's brand ambassador, Kerry Katona: "All of the Iceland ads are terrible -- everything that's wrong with advertising at the moment. Terrible endorsement choice, irritating scripts, over played."

Chris Gordon nominates Currys: "It's got to be the Currys ad with the ridiculous woman asking her two minions for the best offers on flat screen TVs -- 'If it's not really low, I don't want to know' aaarrggghh!"

Ti Gosman is one of many whose dander is up because of Head & Shoulder's Mickey: "Irritating ads -- been said already, but that t*sser Mickey and his versatile locks. The choice of name is baffling -- no one knows someone called Mickey, the ad is so, so smarmy, and it makes me change the channel whenever it's on. And for those who will say the very fact that we remember ads like these is good for the brand, however negative the perception -- Well I've stopped buying Head & Shoulders as a result, so that didn't work did it. "

Graham West wrote: "Has to be the Wilkinson sword shaver ad with the laughable trendy beards at the end. It's dreadful. How nobody stopped and said, 'Hold on a minute guys, these dodgy beards and weird sideburns just aren't working'. I will never know. It has to be in the top 10 surely -- it's awful!"

Stuart Kilroy had this to say: "It categorically has to be the advert with the Asian looking child on the toilet who runs out of air freshener. Not only is it badly dubbed, but the child manages, in a state of bewilderment, to draw a picture to his Mum of an empty air freshener, with not even a pen in sight!"

And for all those media planners tutting about crap creative work, Mark Hancock blames you for the irritation: "I always enjoy this question but there is a point of order to be made. Those that usually take the flak (agencies) are not those responsible for the irritation caused.

"My thinking is thus: all forms of irritation experienced by human beings are caused by repetition -- not by content. It is not the content of the ad that we necessarily find irritating -- it is actually the frequency with which we are subjected to it.

"I therefore blame the media agencies that still use frequency as a measure of success regardless of ample insight into how we actually consume messages on the one hand and clients for buying and encouraging poor quality communications on the other."

A report that broadcasters could lose £250m in annual revenues if the government brings in a 9pm watershed on all alcohol and junk food ads had some members up in arms.

Georgina Gomez Casanovas wrote: "What's the point of banning junk food ads if kids can go to Tescos or McDonald's and buy what they want??? Just go to any supermarket near any school. Simply watch."

Ines Fonseca supported restrictions: "It has to do with social responsibility. Just because drugs are widely available it doesn't mean we have to accept them."

While Gregory Allan blamed the parents: "Has anyone asked why the parents aren't teaching these kids to eat better? Imposing an advertising ban is not going to do anything. Just another PR tactic from the Labour party."

Rush agreed: "Every child knows what the golden arches of McDonald's stand for and regardless of the adverts they will probably want to go there, they ultimately know what food they think tastes good, its up to the parents to monitor this and say no.

"The government seems to be becoming a 'nanny state' over advertising, which seems to be nothing more than a PR stunt. If they are really concerned over their obesity crisis they should be doing something more pro-active than banning ads."

The Eurostar ads for the opening of St Pancras station got off to a bad start with the tagline derailing the ad for many.

Tom Collins found it boring: "Utterly tedious. It makes me feel like taking any other route across the channel possible."

Barry Whyte was the first to rip into the tagline: "'Hello to tomorrow.' Pass the bucket..."

Siobhan Long smelled a rat: "It's nicely shot, it's the really gay music that makes this horrible to watch. And 'hello to tomorrow'? I smell a pushy account man."

Katie Cook was one of the ads defenders: "I like it. It makes me want to go there. I find it enchanting and charming and I can imagine how glorious it was when it was first built. And it's an advert for a train station. What did you expect? The line is, I grant you, crap and I expected more from Fallon. But they've done well. "

To which Javier Malagon cheekily added: "Nice corporate video. Now, where is Fallon's ad?"

In response to news that Guinness is holding a pitch for a big account to celebrate the brand's 250th anniversary, the UK marketing director for the brand refuted talk that the brand is fairing badly here: "Alternative view on UK performance. Guinness in the UK is at it's highest EVER share of the beer market and drinkers are now spending more than £1 billion pa on the black stuff. Great ads from AMV over the past few years have played a major part in this success."

Rory Sutherland's blog on looking at people's needs rather than building brands was well received. He said ad agencies should rediscover "behaviour changing" techniques (sales promotion) and to stop pushing their "attitude shifting" prowess and brand building abilities.

Rory blogged: "In building a brand, don't necessarily start by looking at the brand. Instead ask a broader marketing question: how can I turn human understanding into business advantage?

"This may mean that you start with the transaction and work back. It may mean you look at changing behaviour first and let perception follow. It may mean you have good business ideas and then brand them [Tesco have been masters of this].

"Sales promotion agencies [the good ones] are familiar with this approach... that of 'make people buy and hopefully they'll love you' rather than 'make people love you and hopefully they'll buy'. Their philosophy needs to be as much at the heart of what we do as any other."

Tom Gilbert agreed: "I think Gillette are the masters of this. They outspend their rivals in the research department by a country mile. As a result their razors are significantly better. Their ads are frankly pants but because they are always several steps ahead of Wilkinson Sword in terms of innovation."

A Campaign i-Q forum on the best and worst Christmas ad so far drew a varied response.

Jessica Veal wrote: "Christmas Celebrity endorsement ads are all over the television at the moment. It drives me insane that advertisers or the clients feel that if they shove a celebrity into there advertising campaign, who they think will represent their brand that it will instantly attract people to shop there for their Christmas presents.

"The truth, be innovative, it is Christmas after all, and honestly I think people have already decided where they go for their shopping, Kerry Katona and Jamie Oliver aren't going to make a blind bit of difference!"

But Boots has got Angie Farrugia in the seasonal spirit: "Boots Get Gorgeous 'Here Come the Girls' ad makes me want to get glammed up for a Xmas party. Boots demonstrates a good understanding of the target audience, and while it may be a little OTT, they so far appear to be owning silly season beauty!"

While Tom Thake liked the Argos ads: "I think in terms of timing and message, CHI have hit the spot with their Argos Xmas campaign. A slight variation on delivering a similar message will have resulted in high awareness of this ease of use shopping method for the Christmas period."

A view backed by Peter Martin: "Bad: all of 'em...so far. Though I have to agree the Argos one has a glimmer of non-cliche idea and stylish execution that might kick it over to the other choice."

While Richard Hayter hates an ad with a heavy heart: "Littlewoods, Trinny and Suzannah trying to steal Santa's landspeeder/sled and crashing it. It's just bloody rubbish. And I have a crush on Trinny, too..."

Finally, in response to a forum asking if advertising can cross cultures, Nic Niewart shared his experienced: "Having worked on some global campaigns, and had to adapt others for other regions, I offer you my ten cents worth: The big thing about global strategies is that there are precious few things that transcend international boundaries. Just a little story to leave you: one of my greatest early failures -- but I learned a lot from it.

It was for Bayer, Baygon anti-mosquito spray/electric vapour/pad/flit/coil. It had a man dressed as Batman on the top of the roof of his house in the middle of the night in a small sleepy kampung. The whole village awoke to the yells of this unfortunate, and one by one everyone assembled by this man's house. It played for laughs, and would have the same comedy characters as before in the series.

"He was driven to distraction by mosquitoes and thought he should be a bat. Nobody got it. [Bats eat mosquitoes, right?]. No came the reply. Well what do they eat I asked? Everyone knows they only eat fruit, I was told.

"Back to the drawing board."

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