Last Monday, adage.com reported that Gillette was launching their advertising for Tag body spray, which will be competing against Unilever's Axe and Old Spice's Read Zone (owned by P&G). The campaign, created by Arnold Worldwide, Boston, takes the seems to use the exact same strategy as Unilever's Axe (and Lynx in the UK/Europe). Tag's new spot wasn't bad creatively. The copy at the end which includes a warning list is rather amusing.
"In advertising not to be different is virtually suicidal."
- William Bernbach
The problem lies in the fact that the strategy is a ripped off of what BBH created for the Axe/Lynx brand. Heck, even the packaging looks similar. Seems their AEs must have slept through their Advertising 101 classes. How an agency like Arnold that has a rather decent record for producing good work, creatively and strategically, ends up creating something like this is beyond me. Of course, it is completely possible that the client was behind this move, seeing the success Axe has with their advertising. But it is the job of the ad agency to stand up and say "Wait a minute. Your competitor's using this strategy. We want to stand apart from them and make your product be something different." To agree to follow in the footsteps of an already used strategy is just an inane way to advertise.
Bernbach also said, "To succeed an ad (or a person or product for that matter) must establish its own unique personality, or it will never be noticed. So if a consumer doesn't watch through to the end when the board comes up with the tag line and brand name, there's every reason to assume that people will be thinking that Tag's advertising is for Axe (or even Old Spice Red Zone). Causing confusion for consumers isn't really what I'm sure Arnold was intending to do. But by letting this ad get out to the airwaves, that's most likely what is going to happen.
One also has to wonder if, internally at Arnold there was at least one person who said that this was a bad route to take. That it was just ripping off another strategy. And that it would be a bad idea to not give the consumer some point of differentation between the products. Even if you want to go as far to say that these are parity products and that there really isn't much different between them, then at least the advertising should be different. Especially with parity products, creating a unique advertising message or branding image, or as Arnold calls it, "brand essence", is essential.
"Imitation can be commercial suicide."
- Bill Bernbach
I'm curious what BBH's response to this will be. Could be that they are just laughing because obviously Arnold thought that this was either the only way to go, or that because Axe/Lynx's strategy was working so well, they might as well jump on the bandwagon themselves. As David Ogilvy said in Confessions of an Advertising Man, "If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don't let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else's advertising." So maybe BBH is laughing.
Perhaps there really isn't another way to approach the advertising for a body spray for men. Maybe it does all have to be about getting women to throw themselves at you and rip off your clothing. Even Old Spice's Red Zone ads follow that path as well, but in their execution they are at least a bit more "tame" compared to the typical Axe and Lynx ads.
Tag's Competitor Ads:
Axe & Whipped Cream - Axe print ads 2005
Old Spice Holiday Print Ad 2004 (top image)
So what do you think? Is this a case of copying? Or is it just that there is no other way to sell body spray to men?
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