Trouble in the Balkans needn’t be painful

Spreadbetting company Capital Spreads provides some evidence that the age of intelligent and witty copywriting isn’t necessarily over. In the company’s current campaign on the London Underground, they pose a series of questions to readers.

“The Chinese wrap up mineral rights throughout West Africa,” reads one ad. “Do you (a) Get on the blower and order a 21, two 16s and some butterfly prawns. (b) Start buying copper and enjoy the ride.”

Another execution tells us “There’s trouble down in the Balkan regions. Do you (a) Arrange a private screening with your GP, just in case. (b) Seek temporary refuge and buy gold.”

It’s rare these days to see a textbook piece of advertising that ticks all the boxes. Here, the writer has a clear idea of the central insight and proposition – that potential spread betters pride themselves on their ability to read markets in turbulent economic and political times. They then dramatise the proposition through different dilemmas, which use appropriate humour and are likely to engage the target audience. They achieve consistency across the various executions, by following a recognisable pattern, but giving the creative a unique twist each time. This allows them to take over, say, the Waterloo & City Line and actually encourage passengers to read every single display card in their section of the carriage.

Finally, but significantly, they draw on cultural reference points and language that reflect the milieu of the likely customer. Chinese restaurants, double entendre, the use of the old-fashioned word ‘blower’ to describe a phone.

It’s all done with type and the ads aren’t much to look at. But I still looked at them. Art directors take note.

© Phil Woodford, 2008. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford lectures in marketing and advertising at Birkbeck College, University of London.