Tuesday Mar 25, 2008

No-one wants to look dumb



Do you like drinks that taste like Pschitt ? Or is your car a Charade ? If so, you may be in the cross hairs target of the new MSN ad campaign.

My first experience of what appears to be the latest in a noble history of brand eroding, unintentionally image-savaging product advertising faux pas happened while I was driving to work on highway 101. I passed a billboard that suggested to me that MSN search could be Sherlock to my Watson.

Recalling Nigel Bruce's charming yet bumbling portrayal of Dr Watson, and the irritatingly pedantic Sherlock Holmes played by Basil Rathbone, I realised something evil was afoot for me with the underlying messaging. Bumbling I have no desire to be, still less the sidekick of a pedant; I wondered why I felt as uncomfortable as if someone I didn't know had just asked to be my friend on facebook.

You'd think playing a poor third in a lucrative search advertising market that can average 5c per search is place which requires you do kick it up a notch or two, so when I got home I made the uncomfortable discovery that what I had experienced was just a small part of a whole family of advertisments based around the concept that using MSN will make me clever.

Problem with the brand building proposition here is the tagline: 'No-one wants to look dumb'. Which may speak to those people who will engage deeply with a brand that suggests they are a) stupid and b) ashamed of it, but to me ? Not so much.

Perhaps MSN hopes to establish a newfound success by embracing those in our world with low self-esteem (and target them with products they might enjoy), and whose highest aspirations are to be informed by a vast corporation not to wear frostwash jeans on a first date.

Some ad campaigns start with the right concept, but have unintented consequences because of poor execution.

I can't even be that kind about this one: MSN wants to make me clever, but its ads are making me smart.



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dannycoward

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