Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 11 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 25-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.
What’s the difference between a smart senseless commercial and a stupid senseless commercial? It’s just one thing: whether or not the agency/brand has respected the intelligence of the viewer. This is, of course, a rule (yes, there are rules in creating good advertising) that should be followed for all ads.
Secondarily, it’s also a matter of taste. And since I’m the internet’s most popular ad critic who’s not only watched more senseless spots in the last 11 years than anybody else in the world (probably true) but also has “ideated” hundreds of TV/video ads, including both smart senseless and stupid senseless ones (definitely true), I have a better-developed ad taste filter than you.
To the intelligent senselessness.
You’ve probably seen the “Marco Polo” and “Ice T” spots from GEICO’s new “It’s not surprising how much money you’ll save…” campaign. These are stupid senseless spots because the jokes are tied, awkwardly, to the sell message. And the commercials could literally be for any brand that wanted to say something “not surprising” about itself.
However, the above GEICO renters’ insurance spot from 2010 is pure 100 percent beautiful senselessness. It could be an ad for any person, place, or thing in the world. But it’s not. It’s for GEICO, something you’ll never forget. Why an octopus singing “zuba duba duba do, zaba daba daba da?” Why the strange, pointing man? Why a study? Shut up! That’s why.
With the two newer spots, you knew (I did, anyway) that they were GEICO ads before the v/o said one word. Not so with Mr. Octopus back when the spot debuted. You were captivated, waiting for an explanation. And then there was none. FYI, there was also a homeowners’ insurance execution. Agency: The Martin Agency. Director: Tom Kuntz.
Jolly Rancher: “Turtle,” USA
Unlike with Marco Polo and Ice T, there is a reason why a turtle is in this Jolly Rancher spot from 2012. Like the new Ranchers, he is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. But that’s the only sensible thing about this completely batshit ad (“You still talking to that bird?”).
Probably a spec spot because no ad agency is listed in the credits, just a director: Olivier Augustini. But I’d rather watch 100 commercials like this one than one more disingenuous “Kumbaya” brand “cause” ad.
Le Slip Français: “La Surprise du Chef!” France
Lastly, from 2012, this is quite simply the most senseless — and greatest — men’s underwear commercial ever made. Show me a better one, nonbeliever. Agencies: BETC and Rita, Paris.
If we (I mean “you” creative director, CMO, brand manager, not you, digital “guru”) want to save the dying creativity in advertising, we need to stop worrying about what every overly sensitive, reactive schnook on the internet thinks about our ads and start — in the words of David Byrne — “stop making sense.”
A note on Japan
Japan is the birthplace of many of the most barking-mad commercials ever produced, it’s true. But most all of those are “crazy” ads not “senseless.” It’s a fine line, but it’s a line that’s there — like with this CLIO-winning spot for the Sunshine Sakae department store (ad agency: Asatsu-DK, Tokyo).
OK, this 2009 Hall’s commercial is pretty senseless:
As influencer marketing grows up, brands, agencies experiment with new content tools like bots
Influencer marketing is maturing as a business for many media firms, as they find ways to leverage creator content and gain new audiences.
No more newspaper ads: Why J.C. Penney is going digital-first this holiday season
As shoppers continue to shift to e-commerce, legacy retailer J.C. Penney is making its strategy digital-first to keep up.
Confessions of a Super Smash Bros. tournament organizer on Nintendo’s lack of support for competitive gaming
Unlike other publishers such as Activision Blizzard and Riot Games, which have pumped millions of dollars into organizing and marketing esports leagues for their titles, Nintendo has never offered serious prize money for competitive Smash events.
SponsoredHow Comscore is simplifying pre- and post-campaign measurement for advertisers
Produced in partnership with Marketecture The following article provides highlights from an interview between Greg Dale, Comscore’s general manager of digital, and Mike Shields, co-founder of Marketecture. Register for free to watch more of the discussion and learn how advanced advertising measurement is providing advertisers access to the deep data they need across all platforms. […]
How the new Web3 loyalty program at Starbucks will be a litmus test for the future of branded NFTs
Starting with a small group of members and employees, Starbucks will invite participants into “journeys” that allow them to collect NFTs and points that unlock new benefits and experiences.
How Zola is boosting its OOH spending in New York for ‘engagement season’
OOH ads for the startup, best known for offering wedding registries, will not only be in the Rockefeller Center subway station (where they are hoping to capture the attention of couples going to visit the Christmas tree) but also with subway digital ads, billboards near Bryant Park as well as downtown in Soho and with wild postings throughout the city.