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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

ADdicted: An Ad I Hate to Love

You don't evaluate creative work on whether you like it or not. If you're not the target audience, you can absolutely hate it... and it can still be a fantastic, effective piece of work.

You evaluate creative work based on how well it delivers on the creative brief. Full stop.

I wrote those sentences in a November 2021 blog post aptly titled Evaluating Creative.

And this week, I found a great example of an ad I wish I didn't like so much.

This ad was developed by Ogilvy Germany for DB German Rail.

Everything about this ad, from the "camera off" images that appear instead of people's faces to the "Meetings should be meetings again" tagline that appears at the end, reinforces the idea that people who attend meetings virtually aren't really attending the meeting. They're not paying attention, they're busy doing other things.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that a company like DB, which likely lost significant revenue during the COVID years when people weren't travelling daily between their homes and offices, wants companies to believe "work from home" isn't effective or sustainable.

A very good friend of mine feels the exact same way; as it happens, she's a very senior executive at a global commercial real estate services firm.

But the idea that virtual meetings are automatically wasteful is just as ridiculous as the idea that in-person meetings are automatically valuable.

I have attended thousands of in-person meetings throughout my career, literally, and for far too many of them, my time would have been far better spent doing yoga

In fact, this ad may have provided three great examples of when virtual meetings can be more effective: go back and "watch" the ad again, only this time, close your eyes and pay attention to what you hear.

"... I'm really excited to share our new corporate structure..."

- heard while the man is ironing

"... For business year 2023, we're aiming for a substantial 14% increase in sales"

- heard while the woman is doing yoga

"In the next slide, you'll see the results of the study..."

- heard while the woman is on the toilet

The brilliant creatives who developed this ad want your brain to focus on the visuals being shown, but they may have inadvertently made the audio too realistic: in all three cases, the meetings being attended don't appear to be participatory in nature.

They're not the type of brainstorming sessions where Tom isn't contributing ideas because he's too busy ironing instead of actively participating.

These appear to be the type of meetings designed to relay information... in other words, the ones that probably could have been pre-recorded or transcribed into emails.

How many of you reading this learn a language while on your treadmill, or listen to an audiobook while out for your walk? You can do this because one activity is "active" and the other is "automatic": my brain is engaged with the language learning or book listening, and the activity is something my body does without me having to think about it.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of us don't require much of our brainpower to iron, do yoga, or use the toilet... and can probably do each of these things while we actively listen to a meeting that could have probably been just as effective as an email.

Of course, most people won't pay as much attention to the audio as they will to the visual. And thus, for most people, the key takeaway will be "those people aren't actively engaging in the meeting", not "does that meeting need to be a meeting at all".

As someone who can clearly see the advantages of work-from-home and hybrid workplaces, I hate this ad because it's propagating a stereotype I believe to be completely false: that in order for meetings (and businesses) to be effective, everyone needs to be physically present.

But as a marketer, I begrudgingly love this ad... because it's so damn effective in doing that.

It simply doesn't matter that I don't like this ad as a potential future employee who would be negatively impacted by decision-makers who watch this spot and reconsider their WFH policies. I don't have an office or employees, so I'm not the target of this advertisement.

What matters is the people who are the target audience for this ad -- the people making decisions on WFH and hybrid workplaces -- will likely pay attention to what the ad is saying.

You evaluate creative work based on how well it delivers on the creative brief. Full stop.

And you can bet your last dollar that DB's creative brief included something like, "Get office decision-makers to reevaluate their WFH policies and get employees back to the office."

Bravo for your brilliance on this one, Ogilvy Germany.

But also, f*ck you for being so damn good at your jobs.


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