Advertainment Has To Sell, Or Brands Won’t Continue To Fund It

Jonathan Salem Baskin stirred the Ad Age pot by questioning the value of W+K’s Old Spice “Man on a Horse” and “Mano a Mano in El Bano” campaigns in sales terms.

“Every CMO needs to see this exercise for the time-waster it is,” Baskin argues. “Cart without horse. Medium without message. Marketing without purpose. Is it really so unfashionable for brands to ask for the sale?”

Yes, it is. Several people have left comments on the article that indicate as much. But let’s look at a supportive comment from Stephen Denny of Watsonville, CA:

Jonathan, your opinion is unpopular and absolutely on target. Advertising IS supposed to sell stuff. The original W+K campaign, as far as the public knows (which means those of us who saw the sell-through numbers as reported by Ad Age), the Isaiah spots did zero for selling anything UNTIL the buy-on-get-one-free coupon avalanche hit. When the coupons expired (again, as reported by Ad Age), so did the sell-through. Ads are supposed to sell stuff – if not right now, then soon. Ad Age has fallen in love with the “ad critics” and their “spots as theater” definition of goodness. Just wait till the board asks the hard questions.

I remember reading something that Dan Wieden said about a decade ago. He said he doesn’t believe in promotions, because selling on price, or on the chance to win a prize, denigrates the brand. As a brand builder, he’s not willing to go there. I like Wieden’s POV and his willingness to stand on principle, but the fact is the best brand building in the world (something W+K delivers) has to drive purchase or the account will soon be lost.

That a lowly coupon, not a Cannes-winning campaign, would be responsible for the desired sales lift on Old Spice must really chafe the Pearl District adverteurs.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.