Being an ad man is hard, I presume. Tasked with the job of coming up with not only a convincing and memorable advert for your product, ad man must also come up with a slogan, and worse, a key word.
There are of course other factors, like the music and the photography for instance, and each feature of the advert must intrigue the businessman on the station platform, the old lady reading her Daily Mail, and the teenager watching the television, for a certain number of seconds in order for it to be burnt into their brains. Some of the very best adverts remind you not only of the product, but also what you were doing in that particular year, or take you back to a place in your mind where you thought you would never return.
But it is no easy thing; it’s so hard, in fact, that John Lewis’s Christmas advert, for instance, was treated to a number of revisions and alterations because it had to ‘speak’ John Lewis. First the initial idea was too artistic and didn’t portray their products in an obvious enough way; next the music was wrong because it was too glamorous and showy. The advert had to express all that John Lewis stands for on our high streets; the quality of their products, the quality of their service, and a shopping environment like no other.
Take a stroll down your local high street and on seeing the clusters of shops and brands, words pop into your mind that are linked to that shop. When I see Greggs for example, I think ‘bank’ due to its design of shop frontage, ‘slick’ springs to mind when I pass Ikea, ‘nasty’ for New Look and, for C&H Fabrics, ‘desperate’. In these cases no number of adverts will eradicate the association I have with that brand, no arty music to shun that feeling of desperation I feel when I see those middle-aged women in their twee blouses at C&H, no memorable words will tempt me to have a steak slice at Greggs. And it’s the same when it comes to car companies too.
Some of the finest car adverts have been made by the advertising agency DDB. You will undoubtedly know some of their clients – Volkswagen and Skoda have all benefited from their quirky, clever, and timeless adverts. The strength of their advertising for instance was shown to the full in Skoda’s recent cake-baking advert, as it appeared to have nothing to do with the Skoda Fabia it was advertising. It may well have featured a model of a Fabia made from different cakes, but it didn’t show a real car that you could buy in the showrooms and drive away. But the advert lived up to the image of what Skoda was trying to portray; that the buyers of their cars are a little different, are content in themselves for a buying a Czechoslovakian Volkswagen, and are therefore, obviously ‘happy’ drivers.
One car company that is trying to introduce a new brand identity is Volvo. The car in question is the new S60, which is the forefront of a new wave of future Volvos that come with a keyword of…wait for it: ‘Naughty’.
Since their ownership by Ford in 2000, Volvo has transformed into a company that is cool and contemporary on every level. Unlike any other car company, Volvo caters for both chic rectangular glasses-wearing young adults with the Volvo C30, and the cool, yet dependable clientele who drive the Volvo V70 estate.
The Volvo estate has a unique chapter in British middle-class history. The favoured transport for Margot and Jerry in The Good Life, the Volvo estate is the cornerstone of all things middle-class. Whether on the estate of your country home, or sitting regally outside your Antiques business, the Volvo estate was the ultimate symbol of middle-class transport and dependability. However, in the twenty-first century, the Volvo estate has lost those middle-aged, slightly whiffy corduroy trousers and put on an effortlessly slick, sharp suit. Drive around now in Volvo V70 estate and you are the pinnacle of reserved cool – but that is obviously an image that Volvo wants to steer clear of with the new S60.
And ‘Naughty’, Volvo obviously believes, is the best keyword to use. If we apply this system to the new S60’s contenders we find that the Kia Magentis is ‘Absurd’, the Renault Laguna suits ‘Boring’, the Alfa Romeo 159 is ‘Chic’ and, for the BMW 3-Series: ‘Depressingly good at everything’. But ‘Naughty’…really? ‘Naughty’ conjures up images of owners who enjoy corporal punishment in the bedroom department and, maybe, wear leather trousers – and, worst of all, unreliability.
As much as we all go on about our cars being stylish or sporty, in essence, what we all want is a car that is reliable. It is a luxury we can now all enjoy in the twenty-first century; reliability first and a dollop of style second – not ‘Naughtiness’.
So, as much as I like the way this car looks (I really do like it), the fabulous interior, and its 304 bhp 3.0 litre T6 engine, Volvo have ruined by calling it ‘Naughty’. It strikes me as desperation on the part of Volvo – oh, and I really can’t stand leather trousers.
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