Lessons on giving reality a twist

  • Business
  • Saturday, 04 Jan 2003

A LITTLE over a month ago, the chief creative officer of Lowe & Partners Worldwide, Adrian Holmes, was in the city to give a back-to-basics talk titled Thinking Inside the Box. It was an apt counterpoint to the current battle cry to break out of “the box”, vilified as the bete noir of creativity. 

Holmes’ timely nugget reminded us all that creative people couldn’t just hare off in any direction they please because creativity for creativity’s sake doesn’t cut it. The stark reality is that there is the client, the brief, budget, target market, in some cases legal implications that are part of the framework, or “the box”. 

But the wonderful thing, of course, is that straitjacketing your thinking can produce ingenious solutions and Holmes showed examples of this brilliance in a number of charming TV commercials. 

My own favourite was the one for Heineken beer which, in the past, was memorable for its great competitive line “Refreshes the parts that other beers can’t reach”, and I was therefore curious to see where the brand would go from there. 

The London team at Lowe & Partners pulled off a coup with an interesting approach, in which a number of people (in the situation shown, on a luxury cruise liner) are first seen as pretty ordinary but then a bottle of Heineken swivels into view and voila! Their “true” natures – slightly sinister, leonine or seductive – are revealed through the clear beer and bottle. Quite amusing. 

Over in Thailand, the brand is handled by Leo Burnett and takes a different turn. As reported in a trade magazine, the scenario of one commercial shows a man and a woman watching TV at home, the man sipping a Heineken while his wife works on her nails. 

Noticing his drink, she decides she wants one as well and goes off to pick up a can that she hands him (her nails are newly polished, remember) to open for her. He gives her a hug and has it for himself. 

This kind of miscommunication between people is the stuff on which a later pool of commercials will focus on. But aside from the gentle humour, there is a solid marketing strategy.  

With about 80 per cent of the premium beer market, the brewery people wanted to turn the brand from being perceived as a beer for special occasions to be consumed in bars or restaurants to one for in-home consumption.  

From gentle humour to adult private joke, this time from OgilvyOne Singapore for their client’s Chivas 18 scotch. It seems that Pernod Ricard mailed out 300 gift packs of the product with material that centred on an old bar room joke that was sanitised without sacrificing the you-know-what-I-mean implication. 

The direct mail campaign is touted as a great success, aimed at wealthy middle-aged men who presumably knew what was meant, supporting the brand’s global positioning line “When you know.” 

Not being male, not being a scotch drinker, I of course have no clue as to the private joke so for me, the idea developed for ExxonMobil Hong Kong that won the second prize in the Media magazine’s Year 2002 Awards is more intriguing.  

The idea? Optimum Media Direction (OMD) cleverly turned 11 bus shelters in busy parts of Hong Kong into 3-D mock-ups of petrol pumps complete with an ExxonMobil poster alongside – with the effect that some motorists actually pulled up at the shelters, mistaking them for the real thing! 

It must be very gratifying for the agency to be told that its play on reality and appearance had succeeded so well in raising brand awareness that the campaign may be used as a template for Exxon in other markets. 

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