Sunday, November 30, 2008

Avoid Fork, Knife, Butter

I was recently at a Judges Breakfast for a regional advertising award show. The guest speaker/lead judge (who shall go unnamed) had just given an impressive speech on the need, now more than ever, for advertising agencies to be innovative on how they connect between brands and consumers. To exemplify this point he engaged the audience with a basic question and pointed at random to the attendees for a response. The questions was “what items do you find in a kitchen?” He points at an individual at the front table - “Fork!” is the response. Another “Knife”. Another “ Butter”. This goes on for a few minutes, with more responses coming out representing cutlery, dishes, or appliances- “Fork…saucer…fridge…party…blender…plates”. Stopping the exercise our judge asks the intent listeners what was the most memorable kitchen item? The resounding response: “Party”.

Apparently, the top three responses received when this question is presented to a group of people are Fork, Knife, and Butter. I guess Butter is the attempt at some people to avoid saying Spoon, and rounding off the cutlery name game. This exercise was a great example of how unconventional thought, when appropriately applied can create a memorable response amongst listeners, while telling a lot about the brand that is making the statement.

On the discussion of unconventional thought, a member of the group asked the lead judge what his thoughts were on the “
Gorilla” ads for Cadbury – which happened to win a Gold Lion at Cannes this year. His response and the other responses that surrounded the discussion, were very similar. The general consensus was that the ads were irrelevant to the brand, were another gimmick used by Director Juan Cabral (creator of the Sony Balls and Paint spots)”, and without the hindsight of Cadbury's success, it may not have been so well received by its peers.

I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this, but even if you haven’t seen the ad, you can guess by its title that it is beyond conventional. With the previous demonstration of the need for marketers and advertisers to avoid Fork, Knife, Butter, I did find it a little bit surprising that many members of this group would be surprised that a Gorilla playing the drums could have a chance at delivering positive results for brand and product. In fact one of the judges mentioned that this ad would not win in this regional competition as they couldn’t see the connection between the brand and the ad, and although it was funny, would not constitute good advertising.

I had a look at the spot. I don't have 30 years of creative experience. But after seeing the ad and taking in the discussion at the breakfast, I’m reminded of a quote I read once “the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail..." (Is that Seth's?). In this context “products and services” could be replaced with “ad campaigns”. A group of old agency executives all looked at the Gorilla ad and said this won’t work. Even with the hind sight of knowing the ads success with the brand and at Cannes, most of this group would still never consider producing an ad that followed the unconventional, left-field, thought process that went into the Gorrila spot. To play on the metaphor – these folks would avoid Fork and Knife, but deliver Butter. Party is too risky.

Whether you like the Gorrila spot or not, my point is that all the rules of business are changing - and the agency world seems to be the last to take notice. This spot doesn’t seem to connect to the product. But it DOES connect to the emotion. It DOES catch your attention. It DOES guide you through 60 seconds of experience (don’t most of us pray for 12 seconds?). And it DOES make an effort to break the mold and give the audience something to share.