GOT A PROBLEM? SO DO ALLIANCE, PEERLESS ADS

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Some things just go together: Love and marriage. Soup and sandwich. Whitewater and adventure.

Shower faucets and mutual funds.

All right, maybe the last two aren't an obvious pair, but as we see in two appar ently unrelated new campaigns, TV spots for faucets and funds do have something in common-not only with each other, but with a lot of contemporary advertising. Namely: a problem resolving problems.

The first of these spots, from Ferrell Calvillo Communications, New York, shows four business people getting on a bus while discussing their personal finances.

Guy A: "I just plunked a bundle into the Husney Ferrell Emerging Developing Global Balance Biotechnology Fund."

Guy B: "You know, I'm in the Vasco da Gama Municipal Short Term Convertible Inverted World Income Fund."

Guy A: "That's a keeper."

Woman: "I'm sorry, I couldn't help but overhear, but I highly recommend the Southwest Pacific Rim Tectonic Drift Emerging Continent Contrarian Uncomfortable Investor Equity Value Fund."

Guy A: "You should be in that."

Guy B: "Definitely." (On-screen type: "There is a simpler way to invest. Alliance Capital. Mutual funds without the mystery.")

Guy C: "What was the name of that fund again?"

It's a very funny spot, well written, acted and shot in identifying-and ridiculing-the confusing array of mutual fund options. In that sense, it is a classic example of problem/resolution advertising.

Except there's one minor thing missing.

The resolution.

Nothing in this ad even begins to explain, much less persuade, how Alliance mutual funds are less confusing or mysterious.

Perhaps Alliance believes it earns such credibility by so trenchantly and amusingly establishing the problem, but the possibility is just as likely that viewers will identify mutual fund confusion with Alliance.

It's a common shortcoming, seen frequently in hotel, airline, copier and bank advertising. And also, on the flip side, now for bathroom fixtures.

In a new spot for Peerless Faucet Corp. from Henderson Advertising, Greenville, S.C., the writers come up with the resolution all right. They just don't bother to dramatize the problem.

The 15-second spot is set inside a steamy, computer-animated shower, focusing on a pair of porcelain-looking shower faucet knobs. The cold one, suddenly alive and prehensile, reaches out to adjust the hot water knob. Then the animated image dissolves into an actual Peerless one-piece faucet.

"Leave it to Peerless Faucet," says the voice-over, "to create a shower so smart, it cannot only sense when a toilet has been flushed, it can also adjust the water temperature accordingly. ScaldGard technology by Peerless. Get more out of your faucet than just water."

This is a rare and wonderful Unique Selling Proposition, the impact of which is largely squandered because we get no sense of the stakes involved. What we needed was to see, or hear, Dad whistling in the shower, a toilet being flushed and Dad shrieking at the top of his lungs. Then the Peerless remedy.

Problem and resolution. Some things just belong together.

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