After I respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?”, people frequently cite their favourite TV commercial or billboard ad to me. This, I feel is one of the beauties of the advertising industry, almost everyone can speak of a 30 second slice of art which resonated with them.
Recently, while chatting to a friend of a friend we wandered onto the subject of advertising which subsequently turned this man bristly and almost defensive. As we chatted it became apparent that he did not place much value on advertising as a discipline and felt it was a multi-billion pound industry based on pretty pictures, vibrant colours and persuasive words. A charlatans industry, peddling lies or ‘magic’ to make people buy things they don’t want.
However, after delivering his less-than-rosy opinion of adland, there was a lengthy pause during which he looked perplexed and he then began a new sentence…
“…there was one ad, though, one which really did stick with me, one which I actually loved to watch…” he even remembered the tagline, “You’re never alone with a Strand!”.
He then proceeded to describe the advert below in breathtaking detail.
An interesting point is that when it aired in 1955, with its classical soundtrack, high-end production value and Hollywood aesthetic, this “Strand” advert majorly tanked, inducing little to no effect on sales of the brand’s cigarettes.
Whilst this creative may have been a massive failure from an effectiveness point of view, shifting almost no volume of product off the shelves, it had still managed to penetrate the tough exterior of a person who felt advertising was an expensive, unnecessary, dark art.
We continued our conversation, this time about unrelated topics like sport and the weather, but as we did he slid a packet of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and lit one up.