Shining performance fails to light up brand

By Published on .

Advertiser: Alliance Capital Management
Agency: FerrellCalvillo Communications, New York
Ad Review rating: Two and 1/2 stars

When last we met, the subject was why philistine clients insist on hokey product shots that destroy the aesthetic purity of otherwise magnificent vignettes and comedy spots.

Just to review, the reason is: because their agencies tend to avoid putting advertising in the advertising. Sometimes in a 30-second commercial the product shot is all the selling that goes on.

Screen 1 from the spot

Screen 2 from the spot

Screen 3 from the spot

Screen 4 from the spot

And that's not all. Today's subject: name recognition.

The one thing more heinous than product shots to the fragile creative temperament is the intrusive mention of the brand name eight or nine times in the space of a 30-second spot.

"It's FlossBoss! Only the FlossBoss dental floss rewaxer adds a silky, like-new film of paraffin to your used floss in one magic stroke. With FlossBoss, there's no clumping, no tangling and no painful rewaxing burns. Thread, pull, slide and snap! Want to rewax the modern way? Say FlossBoss!"

Subtle it ain't, but it does burn the brand name into your consciousness like a wire hanger at a fraternity initiation. Note to FerrellCalvillo Communications, New York: They don't call them brands for nothing.

The agency's campaign for Alliance Capital Management is funny, pointed and nearly brilliant advertising. But ultimately it takes not enough pains to drive home who is sponsoring it, much less how you can find the sponsor to sell you what it claims you need.

The best of four quite hilarious spots opens in a nursery, where a proud grandfather beams over his newborn grandchild.

"A grandson!" he says. "I'm the luckiest man alive!"

"Well, maybe not so lucky," the daughter replies.

"What?"

"Well, you never saved any money, Dad, and we can't afford you [she lapses into baby talk] and dih bay-beee. [Then, curtly] You gotta move out."

"B-b-but I want to spend time with him!"

"Oh, you will. The movers won't be here until 4. [The doorbell rings] Uh-oh! They're here early! [Wiggling her newborn's tiny hand] Wave b' bye to Grampa! B' bye. Buh bye!" Then the voice-over:

"Don't be caught unprepared. Get outstanding research, investment expertise and global strategy. At Alliance Capital. Because later is sooner than you think."

The lines themselves are very funny; actress Renee Raudman's timing and delivery are flawless. And the performances are nearly as good in a second spot, featuring a father-and-son fishing trip.

Father: "Son?"

Son: "Yeah, Dad?"

Father: "Your mom and I want to retire, but, you know, we never saved any money. That's where you come in."

Son: "Huh?"

Father: "What grade are you in now? Second? Third?"

Son: "Third."

Father: "That's plenty of school. Time you got a job."

And so on, ending--forgettably--with the same voice-over and logo. Considering that Alliance distributes only through brokers and financial planners, these spots get us no closer to the product line. The message is strong, and memorable. But the advertiser's name is left as an obscure afterthought, a path that will doom a low-profile company to retain its low profile indefinitely.

We certainly don't promote the relentless, pile-driving approach to brand recognition. But there must be a happy medium. If the message is worth delivering, give us a reason--and a means, mnemonic or otherwise--to credit the messenger.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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