I thought I’d wait until the media coverage died down before I reflected on a recent advertising campaign that had tongues wagging.
The FLICK OFF program, announced April 27th was designed to ‘generate awareness of the devastating effects of global warming and reach out to young Ontarians of every age, every demographic and encourage them to turn off the lights and conserve energy.” The initiative is a coalition sponsored by the Province of Ontario Environmental Defence department, Virgin Mobile, Muchmusic and Roots Canada. Total cost - $500,000.
During the news conference, I watched Minister of the Environment Laurel Broten (M.P.P Etobicoke – Lakeshore) and media junkie Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, take questions from reporters. I listened as the tone gradually shifted from celebratory excitement to defensive explainations on how a cheeky four letter word and logo (that uses capital letters “L” and “I” to look like a “U”) will encourage us to turn out the lights.
Clearly, the client and agency felt that they needed this approach in order to ‘break through’ media clutter and get people talking. However judging by reactions of Ontarians, the results have been polarizing. The discussion appears to have landed on the creative execution instead of the messages being communicated. You either love it or hate it. Peter Kormos, an NDP critic, called the campaign “silly, embarrassing and clearly it’s an ad agency that has a bunch of flickin' amateurs as employees." The campaign's website http://www.flickoff.org uses such phrases as "Go flick yourself," and "Are we flicked?" On the homepage, there’s a “Flicker of the Week” and a call to action that says: "We need you to FLICK OFF, and tell everyone you know to FLICK OFF. The more you do it, the cooler it gets. The planet, that is."
I thought it would be interesting to evaluate this creative idea against a checklist I use to evaluate new campaign ideas recommended by our agencies:
1. Does the advertising surprise and reward the viewer?
2. Is it clear what action the audience is intended to take?
3. Will the creative breakthrough?
4. Is the visual style and tone of voice appropriate for the target audience?
5. Is it single minded?
6. Is it campaignable – does it have legs?
7. Does the idea work in French?
I’ll let you decide the answers. As a marketer, I can see both points of view here. On the one hand, to reach consumers in today’s fragmented media world of gadgets, web spaces, cell phones, PVRs, iPods and X-boxes, we’re constantly re-evaluating our approaches on how to get attention, deliver a message, have it understood *instantly* and track the results. On the other hand, I also see how this work is seen as juvenille and vulgar. But I also couldn’t help but appreciate the irony in this - that our 'media' world is as polluted and noisy as the real one and we need these ‘hyper-sassy’ messages to cut through. However, I’ll stop short of saying if I think the campaign is working until I see my next hydro bill.
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