Screw-Ups, Apologies, Horses and Missed Opportunities

Going back to the horse meat scandal (as it's referred to in the papers) it's interesting from an advertising point of view. Often, when screw-ups happen, or catastrophe strikes, companies turn to good old long copy to straighten things out.

That's quite interesting because, though the long copy ad is something we at Sell! Towers firmly believe in, it's much maligned across advertising. People mostly avoid long copy, presumably because they don't believe people will read it (this is lazy thinking). Or, more likely, they can't do it well enough to make people want to read them. But, come the witching hour, people turn to the long-copy ad to get them out of the shit.

I think these occurrences offer a huge opportunity to brands. Often, the stripped back, honest, well-written long-copy ads that they produce in response to crises are the best communication they've done for years. And a lot of the time, companies that do it well come out of it in credit. I wonder why it is that this is never learned from and carried on into the future.

Once the crisis has blown over, the brand and agency always go back to making the same kind of facile, paper thin ads they did beforehand. It seems that maybe clients’ and agencies’ views on what normal punters are interested in are out of kilter with reality.

Now to come back to the horse meat gubbins, and Tesco's curious approach over the last couple of weeks.

They have done what we all expected them to do, and run long copy ads to apologise and explain what they are doing about it. But somehow they seem to have managed to get it all wrong.

Normally these kind of ads represent an opportunity to do some great writing – honest, matter of fact, to-the-point, human.

But there is a really odd tone to the Tesco ads, in which they appear to be apologising, but it doesn't really feel like they're apologising. And whilst using apologetic words, they always seem to implicate someone else.

The writing has a sort of hollow, mission statement-like feel to it. The "What burgers have taught us" ad is a prime example, take this bit:

...we need to keep going, go further, move quicker.

Or this:

And you're not happy, tell us.
Seriously.
This is it.
We are changing.

It's tone over content.
Staccato writing.
Like.
This.
Does.
Not.
Make.
Us.
Take.
You.
Seriously.

And for fucks sake don't write Seriously if you really want us to think you're serious.

Where they do talk about actual action, they appear to adopt the stance of industry-leader, as if they're trying to fix problems that belong to the industry, not problems they have influenced themselves.

So, even if Tesco are actually doing the right thing. The overall feeling that you get from the ads is that they aren't really shouldering the responsibility, they're being slippery and trying to attribute blame and responsibility to others. It all feels like a corporate game of dodgeball masquerading as apology.

Shame really, it's a real missed opportunity.



1 comment:

  1. Ha! Funny, I was just reading this about an hour ago. Your comments about the copy reminded me.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media-network/media-network-blog/2012/dec/04/lost-art-creative-copywriting-advertising

    Tim Rich and I (@66000mph) did a little dissecting of some horsey letters we'd read from supermarkets.

    We wondered if they'd even been shown to writers, some of crazy shit they had in them.

    Well, I ended up sending the letters to a lab... turns out they all had about 40% bullshit in them.

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