A plea for more funny ads and fewer ‘meaningful’ manifestos

—A purpose-free, but hysterical new ad for Twix got Craig Redmond thinking about the industry’s obsession with attaching purpose to everything—

A few weeks ago, there arrived a new TV spot that spread across the interplanetary web faster and more voraciously than the latest strain of our lovingly omnipresent-omnipotent-omnivorous-omicron.

So virulent was its creative infectiousness, as I sat down to wax lyrically about it, I could barely punch a couple of my MacPro keys before it was already old advertising news.

In hindsight, I think the reason it became so popular so quickly amongst industry pundits and average Janes and Joes alike is that it is, unapologetically, what it is.

Burdening zero pretense of purpose, it’s just a really fucking funny ad.

Ever since, I’ve found myself scouring the internet, searching for an equally rewarding, exactingly unaffected and similarly surprisingly simple… ad.

But, like a sweet-toothed diabetic rummaging through the sugar-free bulk treat trough at the dollar store, I felt utterly and overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Literally everything I watched was some sort of cause marketing, attached to some kind of burning societal issue or, rather, conveniently invented one, so as to hitch itself a ride on the ubiquitous meaning and purpose bandwagon.

Whether it was a burger chain handing out rub-on tattoos warning against the dangers of sun exposure, an airline standing up to racial discrimination in golf, or every category brand under the rainbow telling us how proud they are to tangentially acknowledge Pride month, all of it was feeling pretty heavy-handed and awkwardly ham-fisted.

Don’t get me wrong. It is imperative that every advertiser on the planet discover their unique brand purpose, invest in it emotionally, and support the hell out of it corporately. But when those advertisers begin positioning and marketing themselves entirely through that purpose-driven lens, it begins to lose its authenticity. It becomes disingenuous. And it cheapens the meaning and purpose marketing movement as a whole.

Exhibit A: I stumbled upon this wonderful campaign for Capri Sun. It immediately reminded me of the whimsically nonsensical and awesomely absurd 5Alive work from Leo Burnett Toronto, years ago. Like its predecessor, this “Break Free TV” campaign transports us to a fantastical, otherworldly animated experience that gets into our head and rearranges the furniture for a liberating series of 15-second reprieves.

But unlike its 5Alive ancestor, Capri Sun, or its creators, felt obliged when posting their ads, to explain at exhaustive length why they created those escapes in the first place. And how they are righteously driven by a corporate sense of purpose to liberate children and promote creative thinking time away from the highly structured and repressive rigours of their daily routine.

They felt compelled to “marketingsplain” it. Instead, of just doing it 😉

I’ll spare you that not-so-humble, humble brag here. While hopefully giving you the same, pure entertainment Twix afforded us a few weeks ago. And maybe even inspire just a few of you to start simply making a few more ads and maybe mercifully, manufacturing a few less manifestos.


Craig Redmond