Every writer has a Muse. Oscar Wilde was visited by the Green Fairy – “a glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge turned to opium to “bring forth Thoughts, hidden before”.
Sadly, the only bottled Green Fairy I could find in Bluefrog’s kitchens was, well, green Fairy Liquid. And no sign of any opium either. So when seeking inspiration for my first ‘Creative Blog’ post, I turned to a more prosaic but similarly moreish Muse – YouTube.
My attention was caught by a participant in the recent Corporate Strongman Competition (entry fee – $3 million), the Superbowl Ad Break. Amongst the adverts flexing and posing in front of millions of Americans was this one, for a new ‘Clean Diesel’ Audi:
At first glance, I was amused. Then baffled. Deploying a pernickety Green Police is a strange way of selling a green car – both mocking the environmental movement and inviting the viewer to join it.
Audi’s Green Police State just seems to reinforce the worrying but widely held view that climate change is a Convenient Excuse for governments to impinge on people’s freedoms and meddle with every aspect of their lives.
The New York Times went along with this interpretation, calling the advert “misguided” and saying that it put “the mental in environmental”. Frenzied YouTube commenters, like Mr or Ms Hornet, see it as a glimpse of the Orwellian future and a vindication of their green scepticism:
On closer inspection, I’m not sure if Audi have scored an own goal. I think they’ve just approached advertising about environmental issues in a typically groundbreaking way.
Groundbreaking in tone – with its power-chord soundtrack and hyperbolic surrealism (the sniffer anteater), ‘Green Police’ is funny. Which is a rare quality in adverts that tackle the subject of climate change (compare the worthy tone of the latest Prius campaign).
And groundbreaking in target – Audi are aiming at people who are neither environmental militants nor climate change sceptics, who don’t have a problem with being green but do object to being told how they should live their life.
“Sell a ‘Clean Diesel’ Audi to climate change apathetics”. Quite a brief for the creative team. After a heavy session of absinthe, opium or YouTube, I’m sure they pondered the dependably illuminating question:
“What is going to stop our target from doing what we want them to do?”
And I imagine the answers would have been:
“Because they think an environmentally-friendly car might compromise their driving experience.”
“Because they do not identify or want to be associated with stereotypical green-car owners (as seen in South Park).”
Rather than shying away from these challenging answers, ‘Green Police’ addresses them in the tone most appropriate to the target – as all effective advertising should do.
Instead of scaring or preaching, the advert deploys humour – something that Superbowl watchers (largely male Bud Light drinkers) can relate and respond to.
It shows them that they can adhere to environmentalist principles (the Green Police approves the car). And at the same time, it reassures them that they can still differentiate themselves from ‘tree-huggers’ and have fun (the grinning driver speeds off, leaving policemen on electric scooters choking on his (clean) exhaust fumes).
At this point, I should sound the ‘shoehorn alert’.
Because whether your brief is for a Superbowl TV advert or a warm DM pack, it always helps to ask the question I mentioned earlier – “What is going to stop our target from doing what we want them to do?”
What we want people to do here at Bluefrog is, invariably, give to a charity. And the reasons why they might not are, conveniently, listed here. Only by assuaging these doubts and suspicions, directly and honestly, will creative work be a success.
For a face-to-face script, say, that could mean immediately addressing the donor’s frustrations with ‘chugging’ in a friendly and open way:
“Now, I know you think I’m just another out-of-work actor, getting paid on commission to sign you up for a cause I don’t care about. Well, all that is true. Apart from the last bit. I really do care about this cause. Let me tell you why.”
(Just one hastily written example. But you get the idea.)
The more bravely and adventurously you tackle a donor’s concerns, the better. Your creative work, like the ‘Green Police’ advert, might look a bit different, or raise a few eyebrows, or even be misunderstood by some people. But other people will get it, and respond to it. And chances are, they’ll be the people you’re aiming at.
Right, that’s it from me. I’m off back to YouTube. Aline will be back here soon. Thanks for dropping by.