Two ad campaigns have been troubling me lately. The first is the one created by Karmarama for the British high-street chain Costa Coffee and features a bunch of disembodied heads singing in a sea of coffee beans. I think it would be fair to describe the commercial as enjoyable, knockabout, surreal and quite entertaining. In other words, it is completely and utterly unlike the brand it seeks to promote.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but Costa Coffee is the kind of place where yummy mummies gather to shelter from downpours, busy executives finish their reports over double espressos and nothing – absolutely nothing – untoward or out of the ordinary ever happens. I wouldn’t dispute that they serve decent enough coffee. But it’s bought, sold and savoured in what I’d consider to be a pretty conservative and pedestrian environment.
If I’d never visited Costa Coffee and only had the advertisement to go on, who knows what I might imagine? But this brand promise of crazy passion and ingenuity would never be fulfilled if I walked into a store.
Let’s constrast this approach, for a moment, with the other campaign I have in mind: Wieden & Kennedy’s insipid spot for Facebook.
Now, Facebook is a place where many of us spend a lot of our time these days. We share jokes with friends, poke our noses into other people’s business, talk about the day’s news, watch videos, play games and 101 other things. It’s a genuinely fun and spirited brand, which has grown over the past six or seven years to involve a billion people around the world.
This social networking site has transformed both our work and personal lives. Let’s face it. People get sacked on FB and dump their boyfriends there in full view of their friends. It’s a place for talkers and stalkers, for clowns and put-downs. The gossip capital of the world.
So how is this engaging and sociable phenomenon portrayed in the ad campaign? As something desperately sanitised and dull as ditchwater. When I watch ‘The Things That Connect Us’ (excuse me while I regurgitate my Costa Coffee into a wastepaper basket), I could be looking at a commercial for a bank or insurance company. It is corporate pap of the first order.
Perhaps Costa think they are going to reach out to new market places with their bold creative statement? Maybe Facebook thinks that it needs a ‘safe’ strategy to target the hard-to-recruit sceptics, who have so far eschewed the whole idea of online networking? Both strategies seem very misplaced. Marketing communication can indeed help to shift perceptions. But there’s a big difference between nudging people 10 or 20 degrees in one direction and hoping that you’ll spin them the full 180.
Perhaps the two brands could organise an ad swap? Rebadged, the creative would somehow seem more plausible.
Costa’s ad is full of beans. But can the same be said for their stores?
I always meant to take out life assurance. Facebook’s stiflingly boring ‘Connect’ ad.