I like Sir John Hegarty. I like the iconic ads he’s created in the past. I like the ones he creates today and, above all else, I like what he has to say about the ad industry.
In particular, what he said about brand storytelling in a recent interview with The Drum: “The stories that are most memorable are the ones that are based on truth. Those strategies based on truth are the ones that resonate, the ones that stay with people; and the ones that have lasting value.”
In principle, it’s a pretty straightforward proposition: be honest with consumers about your brand and product. Don’t try and sell yourself, or product for that matter, as something it’s not.
Sadly, in advertising, a straightforward proposition is rarely, well, straightforward. Take Ram trucks, for example, whose latest Super Bowl ad failed pretty spectacularly. In it, they used one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speeches, positioning their truck owners as people who also believe in a life of serving others.
At best, it was a completely contrived, inauthentic TV spot that added no lasting value to consumers’ lives. At worst, it was just downright offensive, distastefully using the words of a man who publicly voiced his discontent against the ad industry.
And who can forget last year’s Pepsigate scandal with Kendall Jenner? Just another feeble attempt to try and persuade consumers that a product could change the world, as opposed to an angle that sold its benefits and the truthful nature of what makes it great – such as Dave Trott’s iconic ‘Lip smackin’, thirst quenchin’, ace tastin’ campaign from the 70s.
Of course, a lot of things have changed in advertising since then. The consumer’s ability to see right through brand bull***t isn’t one of them, however. As David Ogilvy famously said, “The consumer isn’t a moron.”
And, if brands want to produce memorable creative with long-lasting value, then it’s time to stop treating them as such.