YOUR OPTIMISM STRIKES ME LIKE JUNK MAIL ADDRESSED TO THE DEAD

Managing to learn nothing from the mistakes of others, the ‘creatives’ at Sony have chosen to launch their latest overpriced electronic TV game with an advert that might as well be for an insurance company or mobile phone network.

In a nutshell: a man and woman arrive at a crummy holiday resort in the midst of an argument. Then the maid cleaning the room of a kind of John Locke-type bloke in another room conspires to lose a hand grenade, for it to get found by the stereotypically fluffy small dog of the kind of gay man who doesn’t actually exist anywhere outside of low-budget 1970s British comedy movies. Then the pin somehow is pulled out of the grenade, and via a passing foreign footballer and joke stolen from Dave Allen At Large, ends up next to the suitcase of the arguing couple, where it explodes with precisely enough force to destroy the case itself, but not the contents of the case, or any of the surrounding area. As unscathed banknotes flutter all around, stock-foreigner-type-47 utters the three word phrase that you just know took several months of focus grouping, ‘board storming’, and thousands of dollars paid to people who should be killed with shovels, “this is living”.



This is all well and good, except it clearly doesn’t work. At least the Xbox 360 “cops and robbers car chase” adverts had people playing some sort of game with each other (even if it had just got Microsoft a stern telling off from the ASA, despite the fact the ad was plastered with patronising warning messages). This is just a stupid waste of money; figures recently uncovered show that exactly £249 of the PlayStation3’s £425 RRP has gone straight to funding this marketing campaign. And the three times we saw the ‘teaser’ adverts for the campaign (which were exactly the same as the advert proper, the only difference being it didn’t say ‘PlayStation3’ at the end), we’d just assumed the website address was for the re-launch of Living “Not Just For Women Any More, You Know” TV. And even then, we didn’t really care.

If they had learned from the errors of the past, they’d have realised that this sort of thing frequently leads to the downfall of many a brand, extra-especially when all that pops up at the end is a website address. The thinking behind such campaigns clearly being “the consumers will be so energised by our cleverly cryptic commercial, they’re all going to check out the website, and subsequently the product will be sold! We’re so good at marketing!” Of course, in realityville, people stay seated in front of their televisions waiting for the second half of the football to kick off, and by the time they next get around to going on the internet, the 3% of viewers who might have been interested in the advert have forgotten if it was a dotcom, -co.uk, -tv, or if the words had any hyphens in between them, and it’s not really worth finding out. Because, and any campaign-synergisers reading this might want to take note, they were actually only watching television because of the large chunks of programming that occur in between the adverts.

Oh, and minus several trillion bonus points any advertising people who think running such an advert-with-only-a-web-address-at-the-end-that-doesn’t-even-say-what-the-product-is in the cinema is anything other than the world’s stupidest idea. They’re only going to be walking away from that multiplex with an opinion on the film they’ve watched, not in a clamour to see what wowthisisreallyimpressive.tv actually does once the 2460kb Flash intro has finished preloading.

But anyway, this lengthy intro is only here as a prelude to BrokenTV’s Top Three Rubbish Advertising Campaigns That Didn’t Say What They Were Actually Selling, And Which Subsequently Failed Massively. Join us as we don an ironic suit and walk down the road holding an oversized haddock whilst wearing a wry smile to the sound of The Supernaturals, for some reason which we’re not going to adequately explain.


NUMBER THREE
Breathe.com (2000)


Real quote from MeejaGrauniad: "My real, real favourite right now is breathe.com. What they're trying to do is be a true lifestyle product. You can do SMS, you can do Wap, you can do Voice . . . it's brilliant." As if anyone ever gave a flying shit about 'doing' WAP.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE AD?
A man walks out of his house in moody Flame-o-vision. Along the way to wherever his destination might be, others join him. Eventually, he arrives at a beach. The only sound is of the massed throng breathing noisily. The voiceover utters the phrase ‘It's amazing what happens when you breathe’. Well, you don’t drop dead, for starters.

WHAT WAS IT FOR?
An ISP, but not that you’d know from the advert. And as such, you wouldn’t then make the decision to move to them for your ISPing needs. And so, it had to resort to the monumentally stupid decision to offer people £50 ‘lifetime’ unmetered internet subscriptions, this at a pre-FRIACO time when most ISPs had to charge per-minute in order to break even.

What sort of company was it? Well, apart from being the kind of start-up that insists on writing it’s name in lower-case, the sort that would come out with the following drivel: "[B]reathe's target audience represents the core of the future modern technology market. They are 18-35 years old and are mostly active mobile socialisers and technology sophisticates, united by brands and media whose values fit with their own. They are [B]reathe's 'Modern Urbanists'." Kind of makes you glad they went bust shortly afterwards, doesn’t it?

NUMBER TWO
Boo.com (1999)


This competition might still be open, you know.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE AD?
A geek dressed in sportswear vomited into a bin. How could it possibly fail?

WHAT WAS IT FOR?
It was for Boo.com, an online sportswear company with illusions of grandeur that went up the wall hilariously quickly. That’s what you get for referring to yourselves as “a gateway to world cool”. Of course, running lots of advertising for your website two months before it actually launches doesn’t help much. More info on boo at Wikipedia.

NUMBER ONE
Scoot.com (1999)


archive.org didn't help us much here. Still, we're quite pleased to have foiled Scoot's attempt to stop us doing this screengrab, by deftly evading the robots(.txt) they'd despatched to destroy us.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE AD?
There were actually lots of short adverts, sometimes several in the same commercial break, featuring people ‘doing’ ‘stuff’, and then remarking how it looks like they need a scoot. Whatever one of those was. Then the brave (i.e. shit) company logo would flash on screen, and six million awestruck viewers would forego the second half of Strike It Rich in order to get their 56k modems to find out what it was all about. In theory.

WHAT WAS IT FOR?
Scoot.com, a sort of proto-118118 directory enquiries and listings service. Except nobody really knew it was that at the time, and couldn’t really be bothered to find out what it was. It’s still going now, but still doesn’t seem to know what it’s there for. Mind you, we’ve ill-advisedly bought a domain name on a whim before now, it’s just that we didn’t have a multi-million pound marketing blitz shortly afterwards (we put up a holding page with a rubbish joke on it, and that was about it).


Yes, all for ill-fated dotcom boom companies that are quite easy to search for. Well, you try remembering advertising campaigns that were so crap no-one can remember them, especially when you’re as forgetful as us. We frequently go to work leaving our front door unlocked, you know, it’s a miracle we can remember how to type in the words for an entire blog post without stopping and wondering whether we left the bath running yesterday evening or not.

But anyway, how should Sony be promoting their new machine? They could start by taking their lead from surely the greatest series of adverts for a videogame console EVER.



Yes, that grainy picture is correct. It really is Lord Eric Morecambe, in a pair of Pac-Man Deeley Boppers, playing on an Atari 2600. Mad props to NOTBBC for putting these links onto YouTube:

7 comments:

Iain said...

Thank goodness it wasn't just me that watched those damn cinema ads and thought "Is that for Living TV? That's a hell of a rebrand."

Sony's form on this is shocking though. Don't forget those horrendous "Third Place" ads for the PS2 which varied from bizarre to downright disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I've been meaning to write one myself but never got around to it.

When first seeing this spot, or rather the teaser versions, I figured "OK, cool, there will be an awesome continuation on launch day, which will totally make all this make sense" (I for one liked the third place ads).

...then came release day, I was at the release party expecting really neat stuff... and what happened? Well, they had like ten ps3:s with the releaseday-games, the commercial kept playing over and over projected on a wall. A booth babe in a very very tiny bikini sat on a swing hanging from the ceiling (throughout the party. Weird? Yes, very.), a band played some music...

...and after a while me and my friend had gotten very fed up with the very non-next-generation female exhibition theme (it was quite awkward to attempt normal conversations whilst standing under the swinging girl's ass). It was like we were back in an old Commodore marketing event (for those not familiar, Commodore seemed to base their PR on 'the more half naked women the better our sales' which really ammounted to 'are they selling computers or russian wives'.

...anyway, suddenly this guy in a kind of jazzy suit jumps up onto a table and starts ... dancing, stepping, I don't know, moving, to the music of the advert, while that annoying this-is-living-sample played in the backgrund. Above him, in the ceiling, hang a balloon filled with money bills. After about five minutes of dancing, he hit the balloon with his cane, money flew out ("woo duude like in the commercial, gnarly man!"), people went a bit nuts for a few seconds, and ... nothing.

That was it. The symbolism of the money flying in all directions without purpose didn't go unnoticed by me, at least.

The figures you're posting on the cost of this campaign are very scary. Do you have a source for them?

/just-a-random-guy-hoping-that-next-gen-will-really-be-next-gen

Mark X said...

Sony do seem to be completely divorced from reality if they think that type of advertisement is likely to make anyone consider spunking £425 up the wall of Argos, unless they were already going to buy a PS3 anyway. I'd guess it's more than a simple coincidence that demand for the Wii and DS are massively outstripping the clamour for the PS3, what with Nintendo's advertising based around showing how much actual fun people can have playing their consoles.

It's a revolutionary new concept not seen since the 1980s, isn't it? Actually showing people the games that run on the games console you want them to spend a large wad of their cash on? So *that's* why the CD32 never really took off.

Mark X said...

Oh, and...

"The figures you're posting on the cost of this campaign are very scary. Do you have a source for them?"

Does my fevered imagination count as a source. Because I'd made them up. I wouldn't be enormously surprised if it later turned out to be true, mind. Staggeringly elaborate launch parties completely failing to have anything to do with the product being launched, peopled by a specially invited crowd flown in specially on secret black Sonycopters don't come cheap.

Billy Donovan said...

I just got a data plan on my mobile. I pretty much do not need my computer anymore since I do so much with my mobile phone. The neatest thing is that I can even watch naughty movies:) It is pretty neat, it's called Mobile TV. All I do is point my phone to sexoncell.com and they have adult mobile movies in different formats like 3gp movies, symbian, pda or whatever. If you have any other cool sites, please let me know! This one, though, even has a free daily mobile movie.

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