GoCompare – When To Kill A TV Campaign?
GoCompare’s latest TV campaign is set to resign the operatic character Gio Compario by taking him out with a bazooka, the trigger being pulled by mild-mannered sports presenter Sue Barker.
The ASA received 43 complaints about the commercial within two days of its first airing. Viewers called the commercial offensive and believed it had the potential of causing harm to children. The ASA is currently assessing the ad, but have not yet made a decision whether they will investigate.
From a personal perspective I think the campaign is superb, it was conceived by the agency Dare and plays marvellously on the fact that Gio splits opinion like Marmite. Regardless of whether you loved or despised the singing Welshman, GoCompare now basks in a similar level of brand-recognition to competitor Compare The Market; although Aleksandr the meerkat probably steals the lead in terms of the nation’s affection towards fictitious ad-characters. It is the aspect of ‘fiction’ that particularly intrigued me when it came thinking about the mindset of those 43 complainants. I’m sure some of them were genuinely concerned about the scheduling of the commercial when children might be viewing (although I honestly don’t feel Gio’s demise would be the worst thing kids will ever be exposed to on the telly) but I must admit to having visions of people falling to their knees in shock, tears streaming down their cheeks, horrified that murder has just occurred in the commercial break – unable to distinguish reality from television.
I feel that the British are somewhat unique in terms of our attitude to television advertising. In the USA advertisers have to shout and scream just for attention (even if that means being less than accurate with the facts) whilst the Australians enjoy edgy humour and have the balls to run some of the most shockingly graphic public-awareness campaigns anywhere in the world. However, many British viewers take advertising to heart and get very emotional about it. Television is a guest in the home – and when the guest tells a risque joke the Brits come over all faint and write angry letters to anyone who might care to read them. I don’t imagine the ASA will do any more than impose a scheduling restriction on the GoCompare campaign, thankfully their remit is to protect viewers from misleading and confusing advertising, and not to critique creative ad concepts or decide the nation’s tastes by pandering to the easily offended.
Having defended the concept of the campaign, the question remains – why kill such a successful brand identity? I’m sure branding experts could explain with the aid of evidence and consumer research, but I believe that massively successful ‘serial’ campaigns at some point need to have a clean line drawn under them. The Nescafe romance, Nicole & Papa, BT’s Adam & Jane – they all needed closure to enable the brand to evolve. It’s important that a corporation can move on from whatever image had successfully propelled it to that point – and when the time comes to scrap a tiring but previously successful format I’m sure every agency would agree – it’s essential to go out with a bang!
Is firing a missile at Gio too much of a side-step into the sinister, or simply a good way to signal the end of the line? Which other campaigns have overstayed their welcome?