L’Age Idiot.

‘You can’t email a hug’, runs the headline, against a picture of a mother (or is it father?) and baby cuddling.

In and of itself, this is unarguable.

But… this is not an ad for a telecoms company, or airline – both of whom might have a legitimate (if somewhat clichéd) claim to connect people. Nor is it an ad for lambs wool knitwear or some other material that is all about softness-of-touch, or similar.

No, this is the latest outdoor campaign for Gold Blend.

Gold Blend is a type of coffee. Babies do not drink coffee, instant or otherwise. Nor, for that matter, do lots of mothers (or fathers) with babies this age.

People do, of course, hug. We like it. It is quintessentially human. People who drink Gold Blend hug. But no one hugs because of Gold Blend. And we all know this.

The two things are not connected.

Neither the ad’s art direction nor its copy has anything to do with the product and trying to somehow imply that people do hug because of Gold Blend is not only inauthentic but the product of a fundamental confusion between cause and effect.

Emotion, as the ever-brilliant Bob Hoffman has it, is a response. It is not an input.

Emotion can be generated through advertising, of course. The irony is that no brand has ever, arguably, done this better than Gold Blend itself – giving us five ‘edge-of-the-seat-will-they-won’t-they’ years of their eponymous ‘Couple’.

The difference was that the campaign was both product-congruous and told a story that was sophisticated and nuanced. This, on the other hand, looks like a clumsy attempt to make consumers feel warm and fuzzy about a particular type of instant coffee – without giving them any reason to do so, over and above a vague idea that hugging is nice.

It won’t work. But, recent John Lewis Christmas TV spots inclus, it’s part of a regressive trend amongst advertisers to treat us like we’re thick.

The industry should know better.

David Ogilvy had it right, years ago – the consumer is not a moron.

She may, to be fair, no longer be our wife (and good on her).

But that does not make her any more of a moron.

Monticello LLP

– this piece first published by The Marketing Society

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