I was reading an article last week proposing that Aleksandr Orlov (the meerkat face of the comparethemarket.com TV ads) is the new saviour of TV advertising. Well, that may or may not be the case, but it is a brilliant application of the device of creating a memorable brand character.
There is nothing new in this approach of course, and there are many other applications across various media even now. For decades, advertising agency Geers Gross embodied the approach at the heart of its philosophy, making use of the Homepride flourgraders, ‘Your Flexible Friend’ the Access card, Countrylife buttermen and the Yellow Pages walking fingers. One great advantage of using these created assets is safety and control – Orlov is unlikely to be involved in a sex or drugs scandal like a sports star or actor used to face up a brand.
While these are great promotional assets, they are often described as ‘brand assets’ and I question whether that is a useful way to think of them. It may be a simplistic view, but I have always considered brands to be long term and strategic, where advertising and promotions is short term and tactical. It is the job of such promotional communications to capture the zeitgeist of their cultural context. Indeed it is their transient nature that allows us to be risky, exciting and push the boundaries whereas we take great care with brand assets to transcend the vagaries of fashion and invest for the long term. Few of these promotional assets stand the test of time – and that is not to criticise them, but they are their to do a job and when their work is done they have the good grace to leave.