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Want awareness? Then get incongruous

Pink Key Consulting’s Richard Pink on the art of using brands where you least expect them.

Oh how we laughed – but little did we know what a trend it was to become.

Here’s the formula – you take your character, you link with a brand that wants to promote and then you make your character do things in the interest of that brand that would give the creator kittens if there wasn’t (I suspect) a healthy fee involved.

Now don’t get me wrong, frankly I’m all for it, but I just wonder how much further it can go, and whether the initial joke is in danger of getting a bit thin.

Early on there were some crackers with very high production values. The short Specsavers Postman Pat episode where he effectively demolishes Greendale and very nearly runs Jess over was genuinely funny, and you could see that as much care and attention had gone into the ad as went into the show. It also did nothing to harm the equity of Postman Pat.

Equally, the Quaker Oats Windy Miller series of ads made with full stop-frame animation was arguably even better with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. My personal favourite is Windy’s nudist Scandinavian uncle turning up and receiving a bowl of hot porridge in his unprotected lap (YouTube it – it’s brilliant).

The Mr Men have also been especially good at this with characters both playing to and against their personalities on behalf of Specsavers, and more recently TfL and Heathrow Airport.

Two relatively new campaigns also spring to mind in this area. Firstly I suspect unless you’ve been under a rock you must have seen the Halifax campaigns featuring Top Cat, The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo. You really do have to be careful with this stuff when you are dealing with characters that have such a strong association with people’s childhood memories. There is a real risk that you can be seen as ‘selling out’ which could potentially do the promoter no good at all. You can also potentially damage the reputation of the licence, especially if there is still a programme running.

On balance I think they’ve got this campaign right, the characters are credible and authentic, and because it’s clear that each character is being used to promote a particular Halifax product, it’s clear that the campaign has been thought through carefully and it works.

The second is really interesting – I’ve never been a He-Man fan, I missed that one, but I know from discussions that there are people out there who won’t hear a word said against it. So the Moneysupermarket Skeletor campaign fascinates me.

Personally I think it’s hilarious, but mainly because it’s using characters I have no emotional attachment to and uses them totally out of context.

Moneysupermarket is the epitome of cheesy, in your face, love it or hate it advertising that gets right up your nose, but sticks in your ears like an ear worm. For anyone to put their prized assets into that advertising environment is a big risk. Personally I think it works a treat and is very, very funny, but I’d be very interested to hear what anyone who regularly invokes the ‘Power of Greyskull’ thinks.

What’s next I wonder? She-Ra at Go-Compare?

Richard Pink is md of Pink Key Consulting – an agency specialising in licensing and promotions. He can be contacted on

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