‘What are you doing Jan?’ We’re in a meeting room just before a major presentation to an important client. ‘Oh, I’m just jotting down some spontaneous comments.’ Colleague Jan always wants to do everything exceptionally well. And perfectionism is also king when it comes to tie-in advertising. Advertisers want to make a spontaneous and up-to-the-minute impression, but they actually make painstaking preparations beforehand.
While the result is often already certain, the timing isn’t. The tie-in advertising for an approaching Eleven City Ice Skating Race or Queen Maxima’s delivery of a baby will have been ready and on the shelf for months if not years. In other cases the timing is certain, but the result isn’t. That’s the way it is with the final of The Voice, the UEFA European Championship and the Olympics. So advertisers come up with different versions and agree with the media that they’ll place the version that goes the best with the result. Once in a blue moon there is suddenly tie-in news that nobody had anticipated. That’s when the fuses in Jan’s brain blow. And that’s apparently what happened to Grolsch beer and Chocomel chocolatemilk. They ran incredibly vicious tie-ins with Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder, who was sent home simultaneously with Brazilian President Rousseff.
Isn’t it odd that these large professional advertisers – where everything is laid down in detail in organograms, protocols, codes of conduct and brand books – overstepped the bounds? What could possess advertisers that invest millions in corporate social responsibility to throw their own corporate image to the wind? Isn’t it remarkable that large A-brands suddenly drop their role as sympathetic supporter? A ‘take a bite out of life’ tie-in with Suarez could have been funny, but don’t take the mickey out of our national heroes.
Were the responsible marketers lazing in their hammock by the pool and were the social media juniors left to do whatever they liked? Or did the marketers want to feel young again and get caught up in their Facebook friends’ lame humour? In any event it’s strange. Because marketers know better than anyone that the images of brands and top athletes are vulnerable. They’re built over years and broken in a day. But social media are self-cleaning. After a super short trial, the jury of public opinion gave them such a merciless spanking that they won’t be able to sit down again until Christmas. Just in time to receive the Lead Lion 2016 award for the worst advertising.