Friday, October 17, 2008

When a good idea is pushed too far

A great ad can do a lot for a brand, but the over-flogging of that great ad can also do a lot of damage.

The famous Australian “Rabbits” TVC which was created by the agency BWM a few years ago for BigPond, a part of Australian telco giant Telstra, is a good example.

The ad was a hit, BigPond’s brand grew and grew as a result, and the ad is regarded as one of the best and most successful to come out of Australia in recent years.

The two characters were very well received by Australian viewers – the young son, cute and innocent, and the father who is cheeky but endearing. The quote that the Great Wall of China was built by “Emperor Nasi Goreng'' to “keep the rabbits out'” has become a part of Aussie culture, a claim that few ads can make. And the father and son characters have since popped up in numerous ads for Telstra BigPond over the years, like this one

this one

and this one

BigPond did deviate briefly with this one-off effort featuring notorious American rocker Tommy Lee.

But few of the ads since “Rabbits” featuring the characters have managed to replicate its massive success. The latest one, titled “Australian Day”, was another continuation and was launched with much hype, but failed to reach the heights of “Rabbits”.

Now this early this week I was dismayed to hear that the characters from “Rabbits” were apparently to be turned into a feature film. It was revealed earlier this year at Cannes by BigPond group MD Justin Milne that Telstra was considering turning the ad into a TV sitcom.
For whatever reason this hasn’t happened, but now BWM has apparently started work on developing a script for a film based on the “Rabbits” characters.

According to the report “conversations are underway with some of Australia’s most prominent script writers to work on a screenplay”, and BWM has “been approaching writers from Australian classics such as Strictly Ballroom, The Castle and The Dish to garner interest in the project, though some of these have already declined”.

Surprise surprise that those writers have declined. Common sense dictates that they would be flogging a dead horse.

Telstra BigPond and BWM had a great ad with “Rabbits”. It was a huge hit, it’s still very popular and won a swag of awards. But they have to move on it from it now. If they did want to make a film based on the ad, they’d want to be very, very careful to make sure the film is entertaining. The damage a film flop would do to the brand would be immense.

Later this week Telstra backtracked big time and came out publicly flatly denying the film would be made. A Telstra spokesperson told industry magazine AdNews that reports it plans to create a film based from characters from the ad were a BWM “PR stunt”.

For me, that’s good news and a smart play by Telstra.

There’s a very fine line between having a great ad which remains being held in high esteem for years, both by the public and the industry, to many great ads which become far too exposed and over-flogged so that consumers literally switch off when they appear.

Viewers appreciate and enjoy a great 30-second ad, but I don’t know many cinema-goers who get excited or would pay to watch a two-hour commercial.

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