Have you seen this ad recently? You probably have. It’s everywhere right now. In the press and on 6-sheet and cross-track posters. Maybe other places too. In the ads, a woman or occasionally a man has been handed a parking ticket from a traffic warden. But instead of being cross about it, the motorist is happy. The traffic warden looks happy, too. Everyone’s happy.
In another execution, the happy motorist is shown with the ticket in one hand and talking into a phone that’s held in her other hand. There are smiles all round.
The phone bit made some sort of sense, in as much as it was an ad for a phone company. An ad for a phone company featuring someone using a phone wouldn’t be a bolt from the blue; a crazy juxtaposition making all your cognitives go into dissonance overload.
But it didn’t help me make any more sense out of the overall concept. And in any case, what could she be saying into the phone?
“You’ll never guess what happened, Mum! I got a parking ticket! Yes, another one! Well, they say good things happen in threes!”
According to the headline, there are ‘no nasty surprises with You Fix’. Did that make things clearer for me? A bit, maybe. Perhaps the motorists haven’t really been given tickets. Perhaps, in some inverted adland version of reality, the motorists are actually giving parking tickets to the traffic wardens. Fuck knows. Despite the posters and ads being all over the place, I soon decided not to bother trying to decipher them. It’s probably to do with some clever network joke that people in my demographic wouldn’t get.
I mentioned this to a friend the other day and he told me what the campaign’s all about. Apparently,it’s based around a TV commercial in which an actor dressed as a traffic warden gives fake parking tickets to other actors dressed as motorists. The drivers pretend to be upset, then pretend to be overjoyed when the ‘parking ticket’ turns out to be a £10 note. No nasty surprises. See?
It’s quite a good idea, if a tad derivative (although lifting stuff is officially Not A Crime Any More in advertising). Showing the absence of something is always a tricky brief to crack.
No, it’s not the idea that irks me about this, or the creative strategy. It’s the assumption that everyone who sees the posters or print ads will have seen the TV ad and will thus get the joke.
Doesn’t that strike you as odd? Not everyone watches Emmerdale or X-Factor. To make doing so a precondition of understanding your ad campaign seems, well, a bit wasteful.
It’s not a one-off, either. I was recording a radio commercial recently and questioned whether the call to action – which involved people texting a certain word to a particular number – was being said with enough clarity by the voiceover. The client, who shall remain nameless, said it wouldn’t matter if some people couldn’t hear it. They’d probably be able to read it on one of the posters.