Michael Scantlebury of Impero picks his Desert Island Ads

Michael Scantlebury is founder and creative director of Impero. He started life in New Zealand, working on several online start-ups before moving to London in 2009 and starting Impero straight off the boat. His ambition with Impero has always been to build a different type of agency from the usual London set: Impero is 77 per cent female, with six out of seven departments run by women and an all-female creative department. Impero clients include Beefeater, Havana Club, For Goodness Shakes, UGG, Lindt & Sprungli, Kerry Foods and General Mills.

Outside Impero Scantlebury is co-founder of Live & Wired – the UK’s first agency dedicated to creating live video for social media.


Desert Island Ads

There are so many great bits of creative in the world, but I am always drawn to the ones that really define a brand. The ones that build long term brand fame. And not necessarily fame as in global scale or reach, as often that’s down to business realities, but the ads that allow you to understand what a brand is, why it is different, and find a place in the mind for it to stick.

I especially like the creative platforms that allow brands to say the same thing over and over again, in more and more interesting ways over a long period of time. As we move more and more to short termism and a direct-response culture to brand management, we’re forgetting how brands are made, and what can transform them. This is always the way we transform the brands we work with.

1. Whittakers: Good Honest Chocolate – for its positioning.

Whittakers ran ads like this for years in NZ, always claiming to be the ‘good honest chocolate’ – which I think is genius. Because in that one move, they position themselves as likeable and different and, being a smaller player against the likes of Cadbury, they negatively frame the competition. They also give themselves a role in consumers minds: “I could buy fun Cadbury, or I could by honest Whittakers”. Whittakers understood they don’t need a small bunch of consumers to buy all the time, they need everyone to buy some of the time. In 2012 they were voted the most trusted brand in NZ. And in 2015 they became the market leader in block chocolate. I reckon they had been running these ads for at least 20 years before that. If not longer. It showed how sticking to an idea over a long period could build long term equity through fame.

2. Ogilvy: Hathaway shirts – for its weirdness.

It’s such a great early example of what I try and tell my clients every day – embrace weird. When David Ogilvy just happened to put this model in an eye patch on the shoot (as legend has it) he changed the fortune of the business. Why? Because no reason. It was just weird. It just adds intrigue. It just adds something to the ad that makes you look. In this day and age where everything needs a strategy or a deck with rationale to back it up, this would be very hard to pull off. ‘Weird’ is very hard to justify at a rational level – that’s why we see more and more homogeneous wallpaper where advertising should be.

3. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like – for its impact.

Impero was designed to do one thing and one thing only – return tired brands to fame and glory. And that’s why I want to put Old Spice in here. Before 2010, it was seen as a brand for older generations: uninteresting, stagnant and a little bit musky. Then it blew it out of the water with a whole new series of internet and social-first ads – proving that no matter how tired a brand gets, a campaign that speaks the consumer’s language will always have a chance at resuscitation.

4. The Army, Snowflake – for its consumer-led media strategy.

This is genius. It pisses people off, but it’s genius. And it’s a master stroke in strategy. Knowing that the Army would only ever be an option for some people (and never be an option for others) and also realising that our media-led impression of young millennials was
a) only half true, and
b) would be rejected by the same consumers who would never be attracted to the Army anyway so.. the Army set about embracing their target market through isolating those that never would be.

That’s a great and smart move. But it’s not the first time it’s been used. The real pure genius is that in the culture of outrage we all currently reside in, they did it in a way that riled up those who would never embrace the army as a career option, so much that they ended up sharing the campaign (in outrage) and becoming the media platform to reach others.

They fooled ya! And it worked – I read yesterday that army enrolment and interest has never been higher.

Very very smart.

5. Absolut: print ads – for its fame-building potential.

These ads show the power of an idea to build fame. It was essentially the same advert that ran for years and years and it was instrumental in taking them from a small player (40K cases I believe) to a world leader. The creative platform always allowed them to build fame and stay current. They became more famous for their advertising than their product. And they took it to the bank. They never got distracted with the latest toys, or got nervous in a downward quarter, they stuck to their guns and built a brand that got sold for 4.6 billion. Not bad.

6. Missguided – for having fun with a boring product.

This one isn’t so much just one desert island ad – but the whole thing. I just love the way Missguided position themselves. Their Instagram channel is just brilliant. Fourth wave feminism all the way, it’s such a great mix of gutsiness and boldness – and even though I am miles away from their target market I think they have an ambition and confidence that is alluring, fresh and has spawned copycats all over the shop. Well done them.

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