Economic stimulus package or generic promotion? Just like the recession, we are all to blame!

May 4, 2009

Well, when you put it that way…

I know how it happens. It’s more or less the same with all clients but let’s say the culprit is a fast food chain. The recession is cutting down the amount of money people spend eating out. The client decides to offer a price reduction on certain items from the menu. A buck or two off, that sort of thing. Make this happen across a couple thousand stores it’s a big deal. Let’s call it an event, the client suggests. Let the people know we’re on their side. We feel their pain. Etc, etc, etc…

The agency gets the brief. Another sale, another promotion. These things bloom like algae. Even during a flush economy value meals are par for QSRs. Unglamorous, an assignment like this quickly makes its way down the agency food chain. Give it to a journeyman who seldom complains. That or task a couple newbies with it. Break ‘em in. They need to pay their dues.

Either way, it’s a dog assignment but it needs to get done.

Promotion or sales briefs rarely vary. They are timeless, lost in time. Always the same (give or take the sandwich or dollar amount) so one tends to rely on a finite amount of themes to drive the creative. What’s new here –I shudder calling it an insight- is the current economic environment. That is unusual. So that is what the creatives glom onto. And while we’re glomming why not raid popular culture for some fodder to inspire the concept?

I know! The Economic Stimulus Package! Why don’t we create one of our own, on behalf of our client?

And so we have the anatomy of ad lands most recent and vexing cliché: a price reduction posing as an economic stimulus package. It’s a loathsome bit of hooey, yet seemingly inevitable. Advertisers love a hook, but it must be all encompassing and utterly familiar. Everyone receiving the message must process it the same way: two cheeseburgers for the price of one. An economic stimulus package. Get it? Of course you do.

The brief is as ubiquitous as the creative. Car prices slashed. Zero percent financing. They’ll even make your payments! Carpeting installed, no money down! Two cheeseburgers for the price of one. It’s the same old same old except now they’re called economic stimulation packages. Saved by Zero anyone?


4 Responses to “Economic stimulus package or generic promotion? Just like the recession, we are all to blame!”

  1. you forgot to mention that the vehicle those newbies use to deliver that sexy, timely, urgent message is twitter.

  2. I know a lot of people like to make the claim that promotional advertising can’t be creative, or vice versa. To an agency, it’s a dog assignment meant to get done as quickly as possible. To a client, it needs to be HARD HITTING not creative.

    Given the future our industry faces, I think it’s time we took that sacred cow out behind the barn.

    These days, we have wonderful tools at our disposal to craft highly promotional work that is also compelling and emotionally resonant.

    And it’s not like that insight is new or anything. David Ogilvy said many years ago “If it does not sell, it is not creative.”

  3. You know it is amazing how many ads are about at the moment that are exactly as you describe them, basically saying we are going to help the economy by letting you buy our stuff a little cheaper, weird. Mind you there are some that try harder, but some of them are so ‘creative’ that you have no idea what is happening in them or what they are selling.


  4. SRP said

    I think it’s admirable whenever an advertiser tries something different, even if it misses. Kudos to Crispin Porter & Bogusky (once again) for creating unusual marketing against very usual briefs.

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