Why Benetton is more in touch than John Lewis
The lovingly crafted John Lewis Christmas ad could have been made at any point in the last 20 years. In fact, with its finger on the pulse of middle England it reminds me of AMV’s wonderful Sainsbury’s/Volvo/Yellow Pages advertising from the early 1990s.
Benetton’s “Love not hate” campaign, launching with an image of the Pope kissing an Imam, bears more of the hallmarks of a political/charity campaign. The sort of shock tactics beloved of animal rights protestors and campaigners against child abuse (territory with which the Vatican is very well acquainted). The Pope/Imam poster has now been pulled but it’s already had its effect. It will be all over the Twittersphere, in blogs (like this one), debated on forums, on the news channels etc etc. You won’t be allowed to forget it easily.
On the other hand, the John Lewis ad has had 1m+ views on youtube although I challenge anyone really to put an ROI to that sort of statistic. This is today’s equivalent to the days when people held conversations around the water cooler as to which ads they like. It is a lovely, traditional film aimed at middle class English couples with kids. Nothing wrong with that at all. So is John Lewis. But it offers no dialogue with consumers. It is an old fashioned top-down brand message.
I think, for all its 6th form crassness, the Benetton campaign is tapping into something more contemporary. For starters, it demonstrates a confident understanding of how networking send ideas viral and global. It demonstrates you no longer need to spend millions on TV media to get a message across. It contains the seeds of a multi-media, multi-discipline idea that allows consumers to take it wherever they want to. And not all the images are as controversial as the Pope one.
However, whilst I applaud the sentiment, I have to admit that I struggle to see its brand relevance – I don’t think casual tops have any more purchase on political philosophy than Levi jeans do on political change. But at least the Benetton name is back front of mind. Maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity?
Over the next 10 years I predict we will see more marketing ideas following a Benetton strategy (albeit watered down) than the traditional John Lewis one. Ones which throw a gauntlet to consumers, invite them to debate and participate and become more actively engaged.