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Being annoying: corporate video’s desire to split audiences

This last couple of weeks, Ribena – the company that uses 90% of the UK’s blackcurrant output to make its hilariously sugary drink – launched a new TV advert that, on the face of it, is a combination of everything awful about corporate culture’s attempt to be “wacky” and “hilarious”, while trying to target a few different markets with “related” humour.

However, when you scratch its surface, one thing becomes clear: the original assessment is completely correct, and it really is an awful piece of marketing. Before I break it down, take a look at it for yourself:

Its approach of “let’s fill the screen with everything possible” to carry the message that “you can’t get more Ribenary” (no, really) is, well… where do you start? To be fair, after drinking a couple of over-strong glasses of its full-sugar concoction, I’ve been known to slip into a similar vision just before I go into diabetic shock, but what on earth possessed them to go this route?

Well, there are hallmarks that clearly target different audiences, but putting them together into an annoying short has fundamentally sapped its success. Here are the key facets that have appealed in the past (albeit separately) in other campaigns or viral videos:

  • An unconvincing 8-bit rabbit in glasses: With its complementary 8-bit sound effect in case you didn’t spot the pixel art straight away, this clearly has its eyes on the aspiring geek/”nerd” market. Everyone loves a bit of retro, right?
  • An owl with a human mouth: Reminiscent of Adam and Joe’s toy remakes, the joke’s probably as much in the fact an owl usually has a beak – but its sole purpose is to sing the out-of-tune “zooby-do, zooby-do, zooby-do”. Great work, there.
  • The aforementioned “song”: The best way to drill something into someone’s head is to sing something so repetitive that they can’t escape it. Tropicana’s blanket use of “How D’Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning” effectively turned me towards Sunny Delight out of spite.
  • The same owl, but with laser-eyes: I wouldn’t be surprised if Ribena claimed that laser-eyed owls produced the drink from blackcurrants in the same way it does in the video, just to really ramp up the wackiness. Seriously, though, laser eyes? It’s a superpower older than the hills.
  • Giant animals: This too has been done to death, and in a much better manner, such as by the crazed mind of the vastly underrated Cyriak (and his dark-yet-not-unlike-Ribena video, MOO!). What does it add to this video? Nothing – especially the goose in the bowtie pushing its face through a portal in the sky.
  • A robin with arms: I’m not even going to bother with this (see Trogdor the Burninator for what they probably ripped off, though).
  • Britishness: To its credit, the one facet that is a little successful and at least reflective of its brand is its inclusion of quintessential British things: the cottages, barges, occasional brutalist tower block and the animals used.

Ultimately, this advert will elicit two reactions:

  • The standard WTF reaction: What better way to drive brand awareness than to annoy the hell out of someone? See Hotels4u’s “Anything4u, cupcake” for the ultimate version of this. (Incidentally, I’ve not heard from that brand for a while, so hopefully they’ve gone bust because of the Brummie nonsense they tried to pull.)
  • Tapping into an audience that doesn’t know what it wants: Look at the YouTube comments for this one; most people who “love” the ad are between 12 and 15 and almost uniformly female, and are enough in their formative stages that they don’t have a definite focus point. The advert throws everything at them, and they’re grateful for it.

Actually, if it’s the second thing that Ribena were targeting all along, well – full credit. That’s actually a masterstroke. I’m willing to bet that this campaign was over budget and under target, though – and with 50,000 views after ten days, I don’t think it’s a wager I’m going to lose.

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