Thursday, May 24, 2007

Of Great Parties and Great Men

Of Great Men and Great Parties
By Chude Jideonwo, THISDAY, 05.18.2007

I have agonized week after week on the good sense of critiquing ads produced by heavyweights (depending on who’s wielding the scales), but after reading two articles on the following two ads in this paper and The Guardian in the past month, I think someone should say what some of us think. That would be me, thank you very much. The Star (Lager Beer) ad which runs on television every night should have run its full course by now I thought, but obviously not. Which is why each time it plays, its k-leg becomes even more glaring. Let me remind you of the basic plot: a guy calls his friends and says he has ‘run out of fuel’ and they bring the party to him.

Now let’s leave out the pseudo-American accent and the ‘slow learner’ look on the main character’s face, let me detail the problems with this plot: first, was this young man going to or coming from the party? No one thought to tell us. Now if we answer for ourselves and say he was going to the party, then how come his ‘friends’ came from the same direction as him? How come he was going in a different direction from the one where they came? And if he was coming from the party (i.e. he had left the party), then why are they bringing the party to him? Thirdly, how come his friend got the brainwave so fast it felt like he had been expecting his friends car to ‘kaput’ all along, and why were the girls around him (suspiciously looking like ladies of the night) smiling inanely like it was a telepathic brain wave?

Other sundry layman issues: why is the commercial shot around a hill - what is the essence of that big gesture? Why couldn’t they use models who looked more like Nigerians of any social class? Where did the open field suddenly appear from? And where exactly did the Deejay plug his equipment to produce music knowing as we did that this was an open field for which they were unprepared? I hate to make the comparison, but you will remember that when Michael Power pulled this kind of stunt, it was plausible because he had called his radio DJ friend and the music came from car stereos. So where is the plausibility in this ad?

Since I have mentioned Guinness, I might as well now pose certain questions to my friend, Udeme. The Guinness Greatness TVC is actually one I really like – especially for the tone and voice of the narrator. There is a cool, soothing feel to him that I always look forward to – and the opening and closing ‘My friend Udeme is a great man’ are winners any day.

However, it is the space between the beginning and the end that I have a problem with. The script is fantastic, but the message is wobbly. Too much wuruwuru to the answer. Why is Udeme a great man? Because he wanted to be a pilot? And what is so great about that? The answer obviously lies in ‘there is a drop of greatness in every man’, but in that case, this ad didn’t do that message justice (and for that matter, neither did the Guinness road and TV shows), because it means then that the narrator himself is a ‘great man’. So why would he stand beside a door and tell me that his friend is a great man – if he also is a ‘great man’ like every other average Joe? Conflict, conflict, conflict.

Or is Udeme a great man because he is a pilot? Big deal. What about lawyers, and surgeons and for that matter, journalists? If this ad tells me Udeme is a great man because he is a pilot, then we might as well assume that Guinness is for pilots. Or maybe he’s a great man because he dreamt of being a pilot and eventually became one? Fantastic message, but that defeats the entire effect of the ‘greatness in every man’ copy. Let me not ask how comforting it is to see a pilot who obviously loves his bottle, and demonstrates that love on a daily basis, what is the more important issue is the fact that this ad contradicts its own message all the way: is Udeme a great man because he drinks beer or because he is a pilot? And what makes either of that good enough for his friend to wax so poetic about him?


BOA said...

First here! haha!

One agreement and one disagreement.

You are right about that Star advert. make i no lie, before now i no even think all the things u talk. What confounded my small brain was the fuel finishing premise. How dumb can a driver of a sophisticated-looking car get, that fuel would finish in his tank in the midst of nowhere. The gauge no dey work? Are they using that advert to promote foolishness. If the car was a 504 or datsun, we for talk say gauge dey faulty. but for that kind of car, a recent-looking model - with a working gauge (evident in the fact that the gauge beeped "empty") to have run out of fuel, then the driver either doesn't deserve the car, or was STEWPID enuf to have put a fuelless car on a journey in the midst of nowhere. if the fuel had run out within the city, we for say im dey find petrol station, but in the midst of that desert-like place? Shoo?

As per Guinness, i wan disagree. My friend Udeme is a great man because:

right from childhood he knew what he wanted to do with his life, and he plodded on towards the fulfilment of his vision. his greatness is not in the fact that as a child he knew what he wanted to do (if na dat then any hopes of greatness on my part are hopeless) but that he had a dream and he strove for its fulfilment. And it was a dream that touched the lives of people in his community - delivering much-needed supplies.

udeme is a "metaphor" for dedication and selflessness - though how Guinness is compatible with any of these is what i don't un'stand!

Lola said...

Chude, the great man. Ok, so this stuff was just plain funny!!! Let me attempt to answer you as the marketing guru that I am....hehehe.

First, your observations about the Star ad are quite interesting. A lot of the time, brand managers get caught up in what seems like the brilliantness of the concept that they discount some of the believability aspect of it. But then again, you have to remember that ads are not known for their believability, I mean how many of us had a family sing along for Indomie (Mimee) at our graduations? Or danced in the street in choreographed fashion a la Guiness Malta? (i'll get to guinness wait for it!) Really what Star is trying to do is connect their brand with cool looking young people and their parties. That's it, it really doesn't go deeper than that.

Now to Guinness/Greatness. Really, this campaign is fantastic and its execution should be in a textbook somewhere as a case study for eager marketing minds. But let's just talk about the ad. I think you're stretching in its criticisms. Obviously Udeme is not a great man because he's a pilot, he's a great man because it seems he delivers some kind of supplies to remote areas, he's a social worker of some sort. But apart from that, the point is "everyday greatness" if I can say that, so pilot, plumber, carpenter, whatever. The point is you don't have to be a Minister/Governor to be a great man, hence "there's a drop of greatness in every man" If you remember the first print ad for this "greatness" campaign you will recall a red background with men from all kinds of profession there, carrying the banner of greatness.

His friend thinks Udeme is a great man. Period. Where does Guinness come in u ask?!?! well, guinness is the drink of choice for this great man of course. this is called an endorsement.

I have no explanation though about a drinking pilot......LOL!!!

Ifreke said...

Thank Heavent that you aren't talking about food again but drinks.Your blog was aleady steaming!...Lol..Anyways,your critiques were okay...E be lyk say ur type of person dey specifically look for all d flaws...Hehe...I av been following you for a while since Funmi Iyanda and I think you are one brilliant dude...I luv ur articles..

Nigeria Politricks said...

Udeme being a pilot and I can assume, the main character in the Guiness commercial is a generic means, if you're a pilot, lawyer, doctor, journalist, mechanic, agbero, mama iyabo the mama 'put' rice seller; someone that has achieved some kinda status can drink Guiness stout. Wonder how you're over analytical on this (non)issue or how you came about this reverse analysis over these tv ads?! Abi na winch, Star and Guiness deh owe u money sef?!!!

wienna said...

U dis boy and so many 1 million questions. lol....i've always had an issue with dat Star advert as well. But it seems to me dat all naija ads now r filmed in SAfrica. Abeg whatever happened to the good ol' ads with substance with real xters, real conversations etc?

Chude! said...

lola, lemme take you first! YOu dont need to tell me abut 'reality' in ads; yours truly hasnt spent all these years in the industry not to understand that. even then, the average intelligent (or great?) man on the streets knows that the supermom in the Omo advert only exists in Fantasyland. However, to say there shouldnbt be 'plausibility' is stretching it too far. yes no one does the indomie stuff at parties, but at least everything that happens at the parties is PLAUSIBLE. It can happen. It is BELIEVABLE. The only time stuff isnt believable is when you are using imagery/metaphor i.e. the Bank PHB advert etc; but not in the case of the Star advert - it was a 'literal' advert, no attempt at metaphor. For instance, the Micheal Power thing, we all know that the whole getting taxis to go dance in a field is way way way up there in terms of fantasy, but it IS plausible i.e. if someone decided to be crazy and do it, it could happen. it is believable it is real; that fact enhances its magic. But if someone decides to be crazy enough to recreate the star secnery it is IMPOSSIBLE. For chrissakes lola, the guys came from the same angle as the main subject!!!!! That would be stretching it too far please. and the fact that yoi agree that iot 'doesnt go deeper than that' is the point! this was a literal advert, not a deep one with deeper perspectives like the guinness of bank phjb one, so like the micheal power ad, since it was literal it had to be plausible.

About trying to connect their brand with cool looking people. i can assure you that the 'tush', elite market they might be seeking to attract will be pissed off by those girls who were looking like escorts! if you want to see cool looking yoiung peopple you might want to look at the Amstel Malta ad (made by the same NB Plc). An dthen on the Guinness ad, i already made the point that it is
an excellent ad; the execution is perfect, the script is on point, and the message is 'deep', however, they didnt take their time to explore the theme, and because this was a metaphoric ad, they needed to have been more careful with crafting the message. I already indicated the issues with the message and so i wont go over that again o. people either agree with them or not.

The point is that we must hold people to high standards of excellence. There is nothing like a 'stupid, simple ad' - if we criticse nollywood movies shot with less than 5,000 dollars, then i dont see why i should expect any less when companies take professionals to south africa and cyprus and spend up to (and more than) 50,000 dollars to shoot a commercial.

what is worth doing at all should be worth doing well dont you think? especoially when the loose ends that need to be tied up arent really as difficult as advanced mathematics

how you dey?

Chude! said...

i am telling you, i was just thinkingh the same thing! all those ads with REAL NIGERIAN conversations! The Bagco Super Sack one, the `Panadol etc. I miss them! Yes, then the big problem was that they were technically deficent and that is what we have caught up with now. but why do we always think excellent has to be non-Nigerian - why cant we marry the technical excellence with a Nigerian spirit?!?! And i guess that is my problem with these two ads mentioned here thankj you so much for helping me place a finger: there's too much concentration on style and so little on content; substance. thanks for dropping in! oh and that nonsense shooting in S-Africa? Anyweay dont let me be hypocritical cos if a brand got redstrat to shoot them an ad in armenia i go kia kia give them invoice!!!!lol

Chude! said...

oh i hate to be seen as a cynic or perpetual critic. i actually wrote that article bevause over the past few months, people have raised the issues in placews i've been, and since i have seen the same things myself, i am like yeah, let's say this out loud! oh moreover, i always say them in good faith, which is why like with guinness i made sure peopple know that i think it an excellent ad, just not as effective as it could be. oh you've been following me since funmi. aw thanks a lot for the kind words. you do know that funmi has a blog sha? i will check yours out now!

dem no owe me money o. in fact abi i don work with star before? no be matter of being analytical; and an ad is not a non-issue - it can make or mar a brand!!!! Lookl at how mtn's brand value dipped since its ad style changed!!! and even if you dont agree with that, there are plenty other brands that have been shot down because their ads just didnt go down the right way. anmd when a brand dies, it takes down with it its staff, advertising agency revenue and people like moi who rely on adverts and sponsorships!!!! so you see ... no be small matter. so actually you could say anyone giving honest, non malicious critiques is doing all them a favor. also, we really must ask for people to do the best the can as much as possible, not because we are perfect ourselves, but bbecause wer must all strive to be.

oga tolu, as usual i need to 'gird my loins' before replying your comments, and i do spend time on lola own and i need to run comot for here now, but i must retaliate tomoro!

omohemi Benson said...

Thank you jare chude!
That Star advert in particular na im get K leg pass.
the girls were pretty yes but loked like "escorts",if he was heading to the party how come the cars pulled up behind him,
it was a copy cat of the micheal power guiness advert.
and then the no fuel thing. abeg.

Like we say in my house,whenever the Guiness advert comes on my friend Udeme is a drunkard! period!

Chude! said...

LMAO @ my fried Udeme is a drunkard!!!!!

laspapi said...

Ok, Chude, who annoyed you?

Havent seen the Star ad, but "my friend Udeme is a great man" even though spoken in that "soothing" baritone still fails to get me
Its a peaceful ad but greatness comes from spraying crops or using every opportunity to down liquor?

Anonymous said...

'My friend Udeme' is a fantastic ad period! Much props to the ad agency that came up with that concept and even more props to the client who approved it. I think someone mentioned it before that udeme represents all those who have a dream/ ambition and followed it through, enough to even affect others around him positively, that is greatness. Advertising sells perception, not necessarily reality, so I think sometimes, dissecting the ad scene by scene does more harm than good. There'll always be something wrong with even the 'best' ad.
I work in an ad agency and I wish my clients would appreciate brilliant ideas when they see them.
PS- how was the RedStrat thingy yesterday, I was supposed to attend but got stuck in the office... the life of ad agency person!

Chude! said...

How now. how you dey. oya, lemme respond to this!

"udeme represents all those who have a dream/ ambition and followed it through, enough to even affect others around him positively". And you think this ad reflected all of this????

Yes ads are not reality, but when they seek to reflect reality (what those of us in communication call a slice of life) then reality checks are crucial.

The bumshasha (Mimee) TVC can escape this test for instance, but not this one.
While I appreciate that this was a well done ad, i maintain that the message could have been more delicately and believably crafted. Ads sell perception not reality - and i am saying that the percepotion this add was trying to sell is lost on me - isnt that cause for concern. You remember how much damage 'Mama na Boy' did to MTN abi? There;s rthe thinnest line sometimes between perception and reality

The Rubbing Minds thing was fabuilous. Eeya sorry you couldnt make it. You can see photos on And I am looking through my guest list to find out exactgly who you are!!!

Chude! said...

thank you o!!!! And they want us to swallow a bad pill simply because it comes coated in a soothing baritone?!?!lol

Nobody annoyed me; I love Guinness' ads fdor instyance, and said as much. I just heard a lot of people talk about this in recent times and thot 'hey, why dont we say this out loud?!'

The Castle of the Writer said...

Chude, don't you think that ad is great? Well, I think it is. You know what, I thought the guy said, 'there is a drop of Guinness in every Great man'? Well, I must have mistaken.

Anyway, how are you doing? Hope you are moulding up yourself with some bottles of Guinness? LOL