One of the biggest challenges for any copywriter is to produce a long-running series of ads yet maintain quality, provide occasional surprises; all the while remaining convincingly on message for the benefit of client and campaign alike. As with all things that are done well – the overtly simple methodology and creative framework that informs the work hides a particularly difficult balance of skills. The copywriter resembles a long-distance runner who aims to consistently cross the line while remaining as fresh as possible.
There are many serial examples but at its most cerebral level of execution the ambiguous and highly visual Rizla series – which actively courted drug use controversy at one stage – toyed with context in a way that made it both intriguing and complex. Deciphering the mix of connection, the writer’s intent and the brand message became a minor brain teaser to be enjoyed on the morning commute.
Aldi’s – Like Brands. Only Cheaper – campaign, although in many ways the polar opposite of high end visual concepts, has been a breath of fresh air in a retail sector notorious for advertising with all the subtlety of a pneumatic drill directed by an agency wearing steel-toe capped boots and motorcycle gloves.
The retailer is to be congratulated for the ambition to break out of the boring BOGOF ghetto – witness the excruciating: “I said yer baah wun – yer get wun free – I said yer…” (The claims of irony can be left on the other side of the double glazing: any knowing winks a result of the draft caused by hurriedly closing the creative window.) Thankfully for a sated consumer… Aldi’s efforts represent some movement from bald price information. There is a discernible watermark of effect with this approach given the tsunami of similar material. Cheap – or cheaper still – defines these straitened times so something else was needed.
The budget supermarket’s television campaign of contrasted price ads has been an, at turns award-winning; sometimes quirky – although ultimately uneven series. Common to all has been a famous branded product and the cheaper Aldi alternative. Rather than ignore – usually via some form of generalisation – or seek to discredit alternative products, they have skilfully chosen to take a less brazenly parasitical piggyback ride on their opposition’s success by sharing the screen time. Equal billing – recognising your competitor’s quality but suggesting yours is of equal stature – is a great profit by association method. It gains access to brand users in a way that price trumpeting alone would not.
All of the Aldi commercials have relied on traditions and stereotypes of character comedy: such as the old lady with a world-weary preference for gin over tea. However, the best two to date have contained something extra in the copy and concept. The middle-aged lothario singing the praises of Baileys and the Aldi alternative through the choices of his two girlfriends adds a disingenuous voice by sanguinely stating he likes both products and – by inference – both the women in his life equally. It is this difficulty of choice that Aldi is hoping to exploit on price differential.
The Special K strand is particularly strong. Not only is there the usual referential element of the packaging – once again the use of the competitor’s motifs to put your own message across – but with the trademark red dress; in this case worn by a chubby, bluff man, the reinforcement reaches another level of mash-up.
Quality maintenance is inevitably a key ingredient to successful longevity – with some less than noble bad is good exceptions – and the dip has come; although most markedly with the Jubilee related Summer Punch offering. The bottom line (ouch) of Sixty years on the throne – replete with associated toilet flush – leaves a comparatively sloppy stain on the series. Ooh… err… Missus! Still, the British love their toilet humour as much as they love a bargain. So just Carry on up the Aldi!