Some of my Facebook Friends are somewhat cock-a-hoop about the current John Lewis TV commercial. One of them said he actually cried after watching it. Wow !
Set to the Billy Joel song ‘She’s Always a Woman to Me’, the ad is basically the story of a young girl growing up to adulthood and going through to her old age. The core message is about the brand’s ‘life-long commitment to you’ with it’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ policy.
It is all good stuff. One of those ads that you’d wish you’d written yourself.
If you break John Lewis down, it’s basically a shop that sells lots of nice things with staff that know a lot about those nice things ! Yet it’s the framing of the offering that makes the brand an absolute delight.
‘Framing’ was something that was drawn to my attention many years ago whilst on an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) course. In other words, by putting something in an appropriate context; a new and very powerful meaning can be created. In radio advertising, there simply aren’t enough advertisers who put their offering into the right context. I think I can speak for many Commercial Producers when I say that from time to time you come across a new advertiser who has an offering that is simply mind-blowing. The problem is that the owner of that business doesn’t realise it and therefore the company doesn’t do as well as it should.
Creating the right frame for a brand and/or proposition isn’t necessarily all about the dialogue in a radio commercial. Over the years, I have been on many judging panels for radio advertising awards ceremonies and I often find many of the losing commercials have failed to frame the proposition properly. The easiest way to look at it is how a comedian makes a joke funny. A joke will only be funny if the punch line is set up correctly. Take this gag from veteran comic Ken Dodd:
“What a wonderful day...What a wonderful day for sticking a cucumber through your next door neighbour’s letter box and shouting “The Martians have landed !”.
The punch line would never have worked if it hadn’t been put into context. The same goes with radio advertising. If you don’t ‘set up’ the key proposition, the whole ad is meaningless. Many advertisers forget this. They think a 30 second commercial should be filled with 30 seconds worth of information. Wrong. In my view the ‘information’ should only account for a small percentage of the commercial. When you next see the full-length version of the 90 second long John Lewis TV ad, the core message appears 7 seconds before the end of the ad. The remaining 83 seconds have been skilfully used to set us up for the 5 word killer endline. And when it comes: POW ! The message is indelibly marked in our memories.
Here’s another example: None of us have escaped the news of the Icelandic Volcano causing havoc to British travellers. I was particularly taken by the news stories of the luxury liner ‘Celebrity Eclipse’ ferrying home two thousand stranded holiday makers from Bilbao. The rescue must have cost Celebrity Cruises an absolute mint.But by golly, the positive publicity the company is getting from it is absolutely priceless. In all media we saw, read and heard interviews with passengers ‘wowing’ the amazing experience they had.
Things like this should teach all brand owners there is more, much more to telling the listener that they can buy ‘X’ for less. Celebrity Cruises have proved this by putting their brand in context with an unprecedented event . By doing this, they have ended up with something that is actually more powerful than the volcano itself.
And I am pretty sure that as a result of their actions, their tills will be ringing loud and proud in the months to come.
John Calvert. www.airforce.co.uk