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ALL THOSE VUVUZELAS DROWNED OUT THE BRANDS

Jos Scharrer. MD. Scharrer Advertising. Jos founded Scharrer Advertising some 25 years ago after many years of being Creative Director first at VZ and then BBDO South Africa. She has worked in advertising in London and New York, and has won the New York Ad Festival Grand Prix for Radio, a couple of Loerie Grand Prix awards, Cannes and numerous others. Visit www.scharrer.co.za to see some recent work. Email: advertising@scharrer.co.za Facebook: Jos Scharrer. Twitter: joscharrer

   In talking to people about some of those sponsorship Soccer World Cup TV commercials, one thing started to become very evident. Nobody could really link any commercial with a specific brand. Think of all those soccer balls heading for the goal posts, all those vuvzelas blowing, all those shouts of "Hurrah", all those fans with painted faces wearing makarapas, those cute children with hope in their eyes, those young guys cheering in shebeens and pubs, and climbing in and out of taxis in great anticipation, those actor soccer players jumping in the air. Which brand was which?
   The ads all had raised, compressed noise levels and seemed, with only a couple of exceptions, to be just one long advertisement for the Fifa Soccer World Cup, but with no individual brand identity. This is fine of course, might well be what was intended and all in the celebration of our new optimistic national spirit. It was just the sameness of it all, that started to become irksome. Ad after ad just blending into one another in a great big blur and deafening din of television soccer euphoria.
   What surprises me is that nobody tried a different route. Nobody tried talking in a quieter, more calming voice. Instead of blowing vuvuzelas and blending their brand into the sameness of all the other brand images, where was the fresh idea that would have stood out in the crowd. Where was the ad that attracted attention with different sound? Where was that dramatic pause? Where was the whisper, or the quiet moment that catches your attention and makes you listen, when everybody else is shouting their heads off? If there was one, I never saw it.
Instead, all we got were multiple brands vying with each other, to see who could make the most noise, with visuals edited from the same collection of images, drowning their brand images in a deafening cacophony.
   Even the news and sports reporters seemed starved of different angles. So when there was a story with a little difference, it was seized upon with relish by those trying to beat another drum.
   They clutched with great relief at the story of Paris Hilton and the aroma of the weed in her immediate vicinity. This must have cheered up the folks in Port Elizabeth, as it got the town extensive publicity on the international news. In fact, it got PE more coverage than it ever had since the Greek freighter Edocvia was wrecked off its coastline some thirty years ago. There was even a post on Twitter from a certain jacklievr who was quick off the mark to tweet that Paris Hilton was to be charged with ambush marketing because the official Fifa product was Coke.
   That brings to mind, the huge amount of publicity Bavaria beer generated with that very pretty bit of ambushing. When I saw all those photographers on the pitch below us at Soccer City at the Netherlands/Denmark game, with their lenses pointed at the crowd, my initial thought was that they were finding the crowd a great deal more interesting than the game. However, again as it panned out, it was a good story with a different and quite delightful angle, which rippled around the world with more words written about it than the Netherlands win of that game. You can't beat pretty girls in short skirts and the chance to do some Fifa bashing when the news is getting a little thin!
The media must have thanked heaven too, for the fishy Nostradamus tale. Paul the Octopus came to their rescue and captured the headlines, closely followed by a story on a psychic parrot in Singapore, who was running around his cage a couple of days before the Final, holding a card bearing the Netherlands flag in his beak. At least one proved to be right.
  Then there is the Simon Wright – Cele business about the fan bursting into the English team change rooms. Wright got himself arrested in connection with the change-room invader, and in the end all charges were dropped except for some Immigration Act technicality regarding signing Joseph into a hotel room. What I found interesting is that for a while many people really did think that in the pursuit of getting a different news story and grabbing the headlines, Wright in writing his "exclusive expose" had done some staging and executed a media sting. After all, when you have nothing different to write about, what do you do?
For journalists the pain of not getting a story that captures the headlines is more immediate. How would newspapers sell if they all communicated the same story in the same way with the same sort of headlines?
   However, in advertising when we don't have any news to convey in our message, we are expected to try and be creatively different. Not to play Follow-My-Leader. What kind of branding are we doing if our message looks and sounds like every other brand trying to capture attention?
   When everybody else is shouting – why not try a whisper? Remember an old Arab proverb: "The whisper of a pretty girl can be heard further than the roar of a lion". Ayoba.