Does VCCP’s BetVictor online betting campaign stretch ‘taste elasticity’ a few furlongs too far?

There must be times when a client is sitting in their ad agency meeting room having just seen creative proposals, wondering what to say next. This must have been the position the team from BetVictor were in at VCCP when they saw the suggested idea for their brand – Paul Kaye in a variety of roles barging in on the Chairman (bookmaker Victor Chandler).

It is very tough for anyone to judge creative proposals at concept stage because it is too hard to visualise the filmed end result. There is a leap of faith in the agency, the production company, the director, the performer(s), the scripts, the budget, etc., etc., so I understand clients sitting back and believing they are not the experts so leave it alone – it’ll be all right on the night.

A while back my old place presented a script idea to Nike that said ‘We plan to film football matches in the UK, Italy and Africa’. The idea was to capture the emotion of football through the eyes of supporters, demonstrating that emotion is a universal language. And, by the way, it will cost £400,000. Quite a big leap of faith on behalf of the client. Spookily the director was Tony Kaye, no relation to Paul I believe.

The BetVictor TV advertising, I would guess is polarising: love it or hate it. For certain it stands out from the crowd and is the only advertising for a betting brand I can think of without cheating. So it has done one very important job on me. Trouble is I dislike the executions. I could go further and claim I greatly dislike them. So the conversion of awareness to preference has failed on me.

However that doesn’t matter to BetVictor if the punters they are after find the work amusing and the brand attractive to them.

Which takes me on to another dilemma that must concern the business owner/management. I always get the argument that intrusiveness is a necessity; more bangs for my buck and other well-worn notions. As Bill Bernbach once said, “If your advertising goes unnoticed the rest is academic”. How true. BetVictor’s advertising won’t go unnoticed so full marks from the Bernbach school of advertising for stand-out power.

However if you owned the brand how would you feel about the way your asset is being portrayed on national television? Does it matter if the results are good? Are you concerned the advertising turns on some people but turns off many others? There is the possibility of long term damage if the residual messages are the wrong ones.

Years ago Gerald Ratner thought he was being clever at a conference when he said his jewellery products were worth less than a prawn sandwich. Disaster followed as he implied his customers were mugs for buying rubbish from his shops. He didn’t intend to suggest that, it was a flippant remark in front of his peers but, what a wally, he made a huge miss-judgement. The residual message next day in the red tops was a nightmare for both Ratner himself and his retail chain.

BetVictor isn’t the same issue but it is an issue of taste elasticity. When does a joke move from funny to offensive for example? Is Paul Kaye dressed as a bearded transvestite with blow up breasts funny or is the taste elasticity looking a bit stretched? It’s not for me to pass judgement because I’m not in the target audience, as I don’t frequent betting shops or websites.

Here’s one for the taste elasticity test from comedian Jack Whitehall on religion. “If you want to watch 12 devoted disciples hanging on to every word from a bearded, Jewish know-it-all then just watch an episode of The Apprentice.” I thought funny but it is just as likely to offend half of the world’s population.

Oh – and Alan Sugar but at least it’s accurate.

This post first appeared on paul-simons.co.uk

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.
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