Argentina's Most Daring Ads Are for BGH Air Conditioners
Home appliances aren't typically muses for innovative advertising, until you see the work from Argentina's BGH and its agency Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. The pair has lit up the awards circuit with efforts such as "Nose-o-Meter," which featured an in-store nose-measuring device that determined if customers' schnozes were big enough to score a discount on its air-purifying ACs. There's also "Dads in Briefs," a series of gorgeously photographed black-and-white commercials that could double as fashion ads, yet they feature hairy, portly papas in their tiny white skivvies -- a warning to those who don't have proper air conditioning in their homes. Last week, the marketer launched its latest commercial, "Sun Hater" [below] -- a cinematic piece starring a sun-hating psychopath who imagines heat worshippers burning alive. Good thing his AC prevents him from leaving the house.
While the campaigns continue to please creative judges -- both "Nose-o-Meter" and "Dads" earned multiple accolades at the various awards fests -- they've also done right by the marketer. Head of Marketing Ezequiel Devoto, who joined BGH two years ago after nearly two decades at Gillette, noted that the company has become a leader in the AC category since the launch of the work, growing from 6% market share in 2009 to 10% year-to-date in 2012.
Given the work, you might wonder whether ACs in Argentina are like men's deodorant in the U.S. -- a hot creative category. But according to BGH's Mr. Devoto, that 's not the case. "Marketing in home appliances in Argentina is very similar to other countries, mostly focused on communicating technology and innovations in a rational way and lots of price ads in newspapers. It is not particularly creative. On the contrary, it is mostly rational and quite literal."
BGH was once party to that thinking, but that changed about five years ago following the arrival of Del Campo ECDs Mariano Serkin and Maxi Itzkoff. BGH was already a client, but the work wasn't standout. "To our surprise, BGH's marketing director at the time, Nicolas Videla, was a really interesting guy who was willing to gamble on good ideas," said Mr. Serkin. "He was the one who opened the door for us to start creating interesting work for air conditioners."
The first leap into the daring came in 2008 with the "United Neighbors" campaign, which highlighted BGH's energy-saving ACs through an unusual contest: a battle of the buildings. The effort challenged apartment buildings in Buenos Aires to lower their energy use over a period of time, and the one that used the least at the end of the term won energy-efficient ACs for each flat. The competition earned tons of press coverage and reintroduced BGH to the market as an innovative brand.
Even after the success of the first effort, it still takes plenty of work to launch each unconventional idea. For example, the 2011 "Dads in Briefs" campaign wasn't a straight sell. In fact, Mr. Itzkoff said that when the agency presented the client that idea, they were just about to go into production on a previously approved campaign. But Del Campo decided at the last minute that fat dads in underwear was a better way to go. "We told them that the original idea we had presented wasn't good enough and we presented 'Dads,'" he said. Not surprisingly, BGH's reaction was something in the vein of "No way.""It was pretty tense," said Mr. Serkin. But the agency returned the following week with black-and-white reference images of David Beckham in his underwear set to classical music, which played well with the client. "Dads" was then approved with two main conditions, said Mr. Devoto: Reflect "good taste and high quality."
Both that campaign and the recent "Sun Hater" are risque ideas, but BGH and Del Campo were sticklers about elevating the idea in a tasteful, sophisticated way. "Dads," directed by Nico & Martin out of Primo, could have been approached in a slapstick style, yet the team chose to go with cinematic, black-and-white photography, which in the end, played the perfect foil to the humor. For the latest "Sun Hater" spot, which makes its debut as Argentina's summer starts, MJZ director Juan Cabral approached the idea as if it were a cerebral, mini-thriller. "The film had to be told by someone who was very sensitive and could understand the nature of such a psychotic character, while still avoiding psycho-killer cliches," said Mr. Itzkoff of Mr. Cabral, who also happens to be the former Fallon London creative behind memorable work like Sony's gorgeous "Balls" spot and Cannes Grand Prix winning campaigns for Cadbury ("Gorilla") and the Tate museum. "We spent a lot of time with him going over the script, editing scenes, tone and music," said Mr. Itzkoff. "It was like a three-month-long surgical procedure."
Both campaigns "implied the risk of the unconventional, but always in a good-taste and high-quality container, which is key to strengthen the attribute of the brand character," said Mr. Devoto.
More important, the ideas were rooted in strong strategy. Unlike "Dads," surprisingly "Sun Hater" was approved "automatically," said Mr. Devoto, because it tapped into a significant insight: "Everybody hates the summer in Argentina when the temperature rises above 30 degrees and 80% humidity for four or five days, with no AC at home." The scary part came later. "A man being set on fire was not included when the idea was originally presented," Mr. Devoto said. The director, Mr. Cabral, later helped to introduce more drama to the commercial, and the fire idea was finally worked in during the offline edit.
Even with craft and strategy intact, however, jitters are to be expected with an out-of -the-box idea. "When I take risks, I always feel nervous about it, at least until the final result is achieved, or not," said Mr. Devoto. "In the case of 'Sun Hater,' it's so dramatic that some people may not feel so comfortable with it, but I am sure that although you see it only once, the message will get across. The most important thing I learned about risk-taking is that if you succeed, the effectiveness of the message increases significantly, and the efficiency of the expenditure grows exponentially."