Monthly Archives: December 2008

Matching Luggage… I don’t get it!

For those not familiar with the term, ‘matching luggage’ refers to advertising campaigns where the same concept is used in a number of different channels. For example, an image from the TV commercial may become the billboard, one of the characters from the commercial may voice the radio spot… and so on. It’s generally used as be a pejorative term, but occasionally I have to stifle a smirk when a client earnestly requests some matching luggage as part of an integrated brief.

There are two simple reasons that advertisers like matching luggage. Firstly, it’s often easier, cheaper and faster to execute one concept and then repurpose parts of it for use in different channels. Secondly, there is an obvious appeal to the notion that seeing the same thing in different places will ‘reinforce’ the messaging.

There is a slightly more complicated reason that more progressive marketers often don’t like matching lugga  ge.  As media channels become more diverse and functionally distinct (think of the difference between a broadcast TV commercial and an interactive website), it makes sense to do different things in each channel, playing to their individual strengths. That may mean that one concept will live well in broadcast audio-visual channels, but a very different concept will be more effective in interactive text-based channels like SMS. In response to anguished cries from old school creatives about single-minded messaging, the new school tell us that as long as the core idea that lies behind the concepts remains true, consumers don’t need their luggage to be matching.

But I digress… I've got a more basic beef with matching luggage. I don't get it.

Every day I see ads… on the street, in magazines, online. And I don’t get them. Not (I like to think) because I am particularly stupid. Simply because I don’t watch enough TV.

The catch with matching luggage is that almost invariably the TV commercial is the core of the campaign. It tells the story from which frames, characters, or lines are snatched and shoehorned into other less ‘exciting/powerful/creative-friendly’ media – from bus sides to banner ads. So if you don’t see the TV commercial… you just don’t get it.

I don’t think I’m the only one. I’ve seen lots of ads for Tivo recently, as the time-shifting revolution creeps up on us Aussies. I’m pretty sure Foxtel IQ is going to put a dent in the amount of TV ads people actually see. DVD sales and online downloads (legal and illegal) of TV series continue to climb as we learn to hoard and binge rather than relying on scheduled programming. And at the end of the day, many of us (teens and young males in particular) seem to have better things to do that watch telly.

For more and more Australians, in a fragmented, technology-empowered media landscape, those beautifully crafted little thirty second stories are becoming an anachronism. That’s not so bad – there are still plenty of places to get a message to us unsuspecting consumers. But if advertisers continue to rely on us having seen their thirty second spot, then when we read that print ad, glance at that billboard, or open that direct mail… we just won’t get it.

(cross-posted from the Naked Communications blog)

Merry Christmas, Big Issue Bill

I buy the Big Issue from Bill. If you are a regular around Central Station, you may have noticed Bill. He’s a wiry looking older chap, who has constructed a vertical shelf as a shopfront which he wheels around with him. It provides a holding place for his magazines, music from a battery operated stereo, a collection of personal paraphernalia (including a small plush dog that often ‘escapes’ onto the nearby pavement), and a topical sign that greets passers-by.

You are most likely to spot Bill this time of year, when he dons his Santa jacket, hat and beard. He’s not a foolish man, so in this heat he opts for blue workman’s shorts. Buying a copy of the Big Issue from Bill is always and experience – I won’t share any of his wit and wisdom here, perhaps in another post.

Today Bill had a little surprise after he handed me the magazine. He reached down into a box at the bottom of his wheelie-shelf, and pulled out a plastic tray and a little piece of paper. From the tray he offered me a ‘tempter’ – a chocolate éclair to chew on. And then he handed me the piece of paper. ‘It’s a Christmas card’, he said, by way of explanation.

The ‘card’ is a quarter of an A4 sheet, printed with festive bunting and a photograph of Bill’s fluffy canine companion (wearing his Christmas headgear). It simply reads, in a suitably festive font, ‘Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year from Big Issue Bill And friends’.

My question is a simple one. Why is it that ‘Big Issue Bill’ is far more skilled at experience and relationship marketing than most of the faceless, charmless monster-corporations whose saccharine Christmas music and tacky festive displays we endure every day?

Merry Christmas to you too, Bill! See you next year.

(cross-posted from the Naked Communications blog)