A puzzling ad appeared in the UK print version of The Guardian on Friday 7th February. It showed a crude illustration of a dog’s face surrounded by short captions of broken English set in Comic Sans. Many readers twigged that the Doge meme had been turned into a press ad. But who was it for? There were no logos, no client, no explanatory copy. “Such mistery”, as one of the captions put it. Twitter soon revealed the name of the shy advertiser: a business data supplier called Duedil. They’d won some free advertising in a competition devised by The Guardian – they just didn’t know what to do with the prize. Duedil came clean on their blog:
“We’ll be honest. We were having a hard time deciding which advert to run with our free advertising space the Guardian so kindly offered us for winning their Small Business Networks competition. We tried a traditional advert, which was nice, but then we remembered we’re not a traditional kind of company.”
Two points struck me. The first is that if Duedil had produced “a traditional advert” that simply promoted what they did, no one would have noticed. But because they weren’t worried about selling themselves, paradoxically they got even more people interested in their company. Twitter overheated on Friday as people frantically searched for #doge and #guardian.
This goes to the heart of what we do, as expressed by Dave Trott: the most important thing is to be noticed, the second is to be memorable, the third is to be correctly attributable. Duedil’s Doge ad demonstrates that if you do the first thing well, the other two get done as a matter of course. (But if you concentrate only on correct attribution, an understandable concern of clients, no one will pay attention.)
The second observation is about talkability. Duedil placed a quarter-page press ad in the small business section of The Guardian and everyone was talking about it. Just imagine if you could do that all the time instead of having to run large expensive campaigns that most prospects ignore.
In fact, there was an agency person who managed to do just that – one of the oddest of the Mad Men, Howard Gossage. During his heyday in the sixties, Gossage would typically run a single long copy ad for his clients in only one publication, The New Yorker. He invited response in unusual ways. (On one occasion he even stopped the copy in mid-sentence because he’d come to the end of the page – then continued where he’d left off in the following week’s ad.) His clients would be deluged with mail. And the ads he wrote for Fina, Qantas and the Sierra Club got people talking all over the US. As Steve Harrison (Wunderman’s former Global CCO) wrote in his biography of Gossage, he was “developing a rudimentary form of social media 40 years before anyone else.”
Or, in the words of our cuddly Shiba Inu, “wow, much engage, so cleverness”.