Where’s the Correlation?


TV advertising is becoming more and more disconnected. By that, I mean there are many commercials that stretch the correlation between the client’s product and the theme or initial message of the ad.

A prime example of this is the latest T-Mobile ad that shows a couple returning home after an evening out only to find a sassy babysitter wisecracking about her hourly rate increases while wearing the housewife’s shoes.

Then the ad closes with a few taglines for T-Mobile—which has absolutely nothing to do with the couple’s situation nor the babysitter. It’s a complete disconnect. I’ve seen the ad several times, and there’s nothing. It could’ve been an ad for skin cream or home security.

I’m not sure what happens in the minds of the copywriters in this way of thinking. I’m sure they think there’s a minor shock value in the babysitter’s snappy reaction to the parents’ inquiries. You watch the interaction between her and the parents and it does catch your attention. But I had to see the ad a few times to catch that it’s a T-Mobile ad.

If it weren’t for their signature hot pink color branding in the last few seconds of the ad, you would’ve missed it, too. Not a good idea.

I have a brother-in-law who’s done a lot of copywriting for ad agencies, and we discussed this disconnect. His theory is that ad agencies’ copywriters are beginning to hate writing for these kinds of commercials. Either it’s that or this commercial’s editing staff left too much on the cutting room floor. It’s also possible that this way of thinking is the new soft-sell approach. But the disconnect is so wide that it does not work.

Here’s the thing: it does appear to be a small trend. I say small to refer to a small number of advertisers doing this kind of ad, but I also say trend to say there will be more coming, if not a large number. I hope not.

There are however, advertisers who stretch the correlation and yet keep it as a comparative statement. Geico is one.

The latest Geico ad has a scene in a pharmacy with Boyz II Men singing the side effects of a prescription to a woman. Then the voiceover explains that Boyz II Men can make anything sound good (it’s what they do), and that if you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you can call Geico (it’s what you do).

A small connection, but it’s just enough to make it work.

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3 thoughts on “Where’s the Correlation?

  1. Dan, I’ve run into too many copywriters, art directors, producers and creative directors who have misplaced priorities. They want to create a “breakthrough” ad for TV, radio, print, but lose sight of their primary responsibility: Inform and sell the benefits of their client’s product or service.

    I think this contributes a lot to the disconnect you’re seeing.

    To many creative people, the idea of selling something is anathema to their self-appointed exalted position. They don’t like to get their hands dirty. Leave that grunt work to the sales promotion and direct marketing stiffs.

    This, I think, has contributed to the diminution of the agency world. In its “Mad Men” heyday agencies were valued for their counsel. People like David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach were hailed for their marketing prowess.

    Today, agencies are vendors. They’re forced to compete on price because clients don’t see the value-add anymore.

    At the end of his long career David Ogilvy moved his office in among the direct marketing folks. He saw that they understood their first obligation to their clients: Create a compelling reason to buy whatever they were selling to their customers.

    My words are simplistic and probably over-generalized. But you identified a too common malady in today’s ad world.

  2. What about the companies that are starting to make commentaries on social issues and just putting their product name with it. It appears to be away of connecting with the public without ever even mentioning the attributes of their product.

    • Show me an example. I’m willing to look at it, but your reference to social issues spans a gap that probably 95% of the viewing public would not catch.

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