Monday 18 December 2017

AdLib: Brands must see bigger picture

John Fanning rates Unilever’s Dove campaign as the best of the 21st century
John Fanning rates Unilever’s Dove campaign as the best of the 21st century
Illustrator Chris Judge worked on the latest Brennans Bread adverts

Michael Cullen

Irish marketers need to have a compelling idea to give their brands a leg up in a world of social change, John Fanning told an Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI) Toolkit talk. The former McConnells Advertising agency boss said if top brands want to connect with consumers they must have some purpose, meaning, vision or conscience.

For years, the best people at communicating truths were philosophers - but they can be "a tricky bunch", Fanning said. French ad group Havas tries to push the idea of doing well in business while doing some good for society. The world has entered an age of fear where insecurity is an active ingredient.

The century started badly with the 9/11 attacks in New York, followed by the Iraq war and, more recently, Donald Trump. Adlanders must be mindful that we live in a society not a market with questioning of consumerism and materialism on the rise. Governments find it hard to raise money through taxes. The coffers are under added pressure by people living longer.

There's a search for meaning, with people anxious to derive something deeper out of life, Fanning insists. As the Edelman Trust Barometer shows, faith in traditional institutions such as government, church, the banks and media is at an all-time low. Brands with a better understanding of what's happening in society stand a better chance of success.

With so many questions being posed by consumers, there's a need for a rebalance. Marketing and media ought to go to when people confided in stories and myths, to a time when life wasn't all about facts. However, we shouldn't replace the void with fake news, which is just spin-doctoring out of control. We're in danger of confusing access to information with information knowledge. "Marketers need to be conscious of the environment and less concerned about a mobile phone with a heater that can do your crème brulee," Fanning added. "There's the relentless chirpiness of life today, what I call 'things in the offing'. People working in marketing communications need to be slightly ahead on changes - say six months to a year."

Companies are edging into sustainability, conscious of a duty to still be around in 100 years from now. Some businesses ask themselves why they need to be the biggest and most profitable. The Patagonia outdoor clothes brand is transparent about its global footprint and asks what's good, what's bad, without expecting perfection in a sceptical world. It subscribes to the credo that clear is the new clever.

Illy is not trying to be big, it just wants to produce great coffee and educational programmes for artists and writers. Even a multinational behemoth like Unilever wants stakeholders to share its brand values. Fanning believes Unilever's Dove campaign to be the best campaign, so far, of the 21st century "by a mile".


In the UK, M&C Saatchi has had talks with Lynton Crosby about handling the Conservative Party's general election campaign. Crosby is a political strategist who handles campaigns for centre-right parties, including the Liberal Party in his native Australia. Dubbed the 'Wizard of Oz' and 'the Australian Karl Rove', he ran the Conservative campaigns for the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections, the 2015 general election - all resulting in Tory victories. However, he was unable to get Zac Goldsmith elected in last year's London mayoral election. At the 2009 European elections, Crosby was a spin doctor for the ill-fated Libertas, headed in Ireland by Declan Ganley.

Links between the Tories and M&C Saatchi founders, Maurice and Charles Saatchi, date back to the 1970s, when they created Saatchi & Saatchi's infamous 'Labour isn't Working' dole queue campaign for Margaret Thatcher.


Brennans Bread is famous for its 'today's bread, today' slogan and radio ads voiced by veteran actor Bill Golding. Now the brand has rolled out a new campaign created by DDFH&B and Mindshare. The focus on freshly-baked bread remains, but Old Mr Brennan also offers some quirky ideas on how consumers can make their daily lives more colourful and break from the norm. Dublin illustrator Chris Judge was behind the 60 images, like the ads on Dart trains.


On the movers front, Ronan McEvoy has joined his former Virgin Media colleague Mark Coan at Permanent TSB. McEvoy's CV also includes stints at Eir and Cadbury. Adam Crane is the new creative director at Guns or Knives. Before joining Rothco's sister agency, Crane ran his own creative shop, Truth & Dare, for six years. He also had lengthy stays at TBWA and The Hive.


Next up for the Association of Advertisers in Ireland Tuesday Toolkit breakfast is British adman David Meikle, author of the book 'How to Buy a Gorilla'. Meikle worked with WPP-owned agencies Ogilvy and Grey. The event is in Core Media at 8.15am on May 23.

Michael Cullen is editor of;

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