Awfully Smart Advertising – The Power of Annoying

So, on a scale of 1-10, how irritated do you feel right now?  Whatever the figure a moment ago it’s probably a lot higher since clicking this page.

Has the music started in your head yet?  “Go compaaare… Go compaaaare…”

The scale only goes up to 10, I’m afraid.

Go Compare has for the second year running been voted Britain’s most annoying advert in a survey by Marketing magazine.  You will all be painfully familiar with the tubby, twizzle-moustached opera singer, Gio Compario (yup, gio figuro…) who pops up in ever-more unlikely situations to extol the virtues of a price comparison website.  I can’t be the only one who’s fantasised about starving a troupe of Russian meerkats for a week and then dropping him in the cage.

Compare the Marketing (.com)

The marketing has been in full flow.  Gio has his own website and Facebook page, though an alternative Facebook campaign titled, ‘Go Compare, Go Compare, Give me a bat to kill the twat at Go Compare’ is around 10 times more popular.  So why on earth would marketers want to persist with this campaign?  Several more ads have been in the can for a while awaiting staggered release throughout the year, so why not just burn them and move on?

The answer’s very clear.  Before the campaign Go Compare was third in the price comparison marketplace.  Now it’s first, even fending off Aleksandr Orlov, marketing meerkat extraordinaire whose autobiography outsold Paul O’Grady’s but who failed to take Compare the Market to the top spot.

Both adverts actually employ the same principle: no one’s interested in hearing about how effective these sites are in comparing prices so the best strategy is to drum the name of the website into people’s minds.  Compare the Market puns on its name and attaches a cute and entertaining animal to the concept, Go Compare sings the name at us repeatedly with a man so annoying you can’t help but remember.

When you’re at your computer thinking about buying something are you so filled with moral outrage at being regularly accosted by Gio Compario that on principle you block all access to Go Compare?  No.  It’s the first name you think of and you type it in. 


The History of Awful

The power of awful is nothing new.  Back in the seventies and eighties the British public was subjected to the brain-numbing tedium of z-list celebs talking about Nescafé.  The leading light amongst these was the late Gareth Hunt, former New Avenger turned coffee ambassador.

Gareth chatted with his pals in suburbia about the ‘richer, smoother flavour’ of their favourite coffee before inexplicably discovering he had a handful of coffee beans.  These would then be shaken up and down within a clenched fist, miming the exact idea we were formulating about Gareth.

It too was derided as the most buttock-clenchingly bad advert on the telly, but in supermarket aisles up and down the land people would consider which jar of coffee to buy and settled for the brand that came to the front of their minds: Nescafé.  And here I am, 30 years later, writing about it.  Could I tell you anything about any other hot beverage adverts at the time?  I could not.

Ummmmm… Don’t tell me…

We’re all quick to celebrate adverts that are original, funny, breathtaking or cinematic, but do they always work? Take car ads, for instance.  The dazzling CGI reworking of Gene Kelly breakdancing to ‘Singing in the Rain’ is very memorable, but which car was being advertised?   It’s great fun to watch cars flying off buildings and executing barrel rolls, but what make were they again…?  The Fiat Compario…?  No, no that can’t be right…

The successful advert isn’t always the one that wins creative awards or that people love.  It’s the one that gets business.  Which isn’t to suggest any old annoying rubbish will work – there’s a lot of thought even behind Gio.  His tune is very catchy (a re-working of a deliberately rousing World War I song, ‘Over There’) whilst Gio himself is visually striking.  In the original ads he appeared in ordinary situations from day-to-day life, popping out of nowhere to advise consumers looking for a deal.  In terms of neuro-linguistic programming this is embedding key messages for the viewer about the site’s service and almost hypnotically implanting the name.  The lyrics too play their part, which is why more recent versions had to start running subtitles since the overblown singing was obscuring them.

It’s All in the Mind

It’s easy to become lost in creative or egotistical pleasure devising fresh ideas for adverts, but the bottom line is they have to work.  You’d think that making customers smile would be the goal, but making them grimace could be even more successful – if you play it carefully.  Whether it’s the fictitious nobody Barry Scott advertising Cillit Bang or our very own Gio, the power of awful is not to be underestimated.

BANG and the dirt is gone!

We all like to think we’re immune to the influence of adverts, that the 30 second nonsense unfolding before our eyes won’t affect us at all.  But we’re wrong.  Like chewing gum on the heel we pick it up without realising it and carry it with us wherever we go, which is very annoying.

Unless you’re in advertising.

“Thatsa not faaaaair!”

About David

I'm a professional copywriter from Nexus Copywriting and there's a little more about me here. Or, if you'd like to see how I can benefit your business, find out about my copywriting services.
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2 Responses to Awfully Smart Advertising – The Power of Annoying

  1. Hazel says:

    There’s a long, long list of annoying ad characters now – the stern and critical, yet not funny, Omid Djalili for and the squiggle cartoon character(s) for, in addition to the ones that you mention. But yes, annoying is memorable. Who can forget…”you do the Shake’n'Vac to put the freshness back”?

  2. David says:

    Omid Djalili’s ad was voted in as the ninth most irritiating for 2010 so he’s got some catching up to do!

    Ah yes, Shake ‘n’ Vac – when your carpet smells fresh, your room does too! The stuff of nightmares! Gently floral nightmares…

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