Advertising: The Good, The Bad and The Pointless

56% of people claim that advertising has no effect on them. Actually I made that up because I couldn’t find any relevant statistical evidence. Anyway, today I saw an example of advertising that disproves my own fabricated claims. Today I saw advertising perform at its most fundamental level.

Projecting from the endless sea of citizens suffering in silence, was a sign. Wooden, it stood tall like a ship’s mast. It hung in the air. BoldBright. Offering a glimmer of saturated colour in a desolate wasteland of grey, corporate lunchtimes. Orange erupted above the conflux, exhibiting a clear message:

£1.49 Sandwich and Filling!

I watched as a man approached. He was of relatively small demeanour. Worn, dishevelled, he look as if he was in need of a sandwich but it was clear that the idea of investing in one had not entered his mind. Until that is, he saw the board.

He stopped. I watched his eyes narrow and his pupils flicker from

left                                                                 to                                                              right

as he carefully absorbed the erudition. Upon consummation of this propaganda I saw his eyebrows flutter toward the sky and his lips arch upward as he nodded, in both acknowledgement and agreement. Conveyed through a myriad of facial contortion, I witnessed that instantaneous moment of decisiveness.

Then I watched as this man entered the shop and bought the sandwich he never knew he needed. Advertising in its purest form.

This is nothing new. I’ve seen queues out the door of this shop. It’s clearly very popular. But this is the first time I’d witnessed the simple process of street advertising work with immediate effectiveness. The simple mechanics of persuasion. The visual equivalent of:

“Hey mate. Wanna buy a sandwich? They’re cheap.”

A clear piece of advertising, it was concise and efficient. As good as anything Don Draper has produced.

Incidentally this magical sandwich sign once lured me into its lair where it devoured the contents of my pocket. Hunger coupled with a friend’s recommendation directed me into the shop, where I purchased my third choice sandwich, as my preferred fillings were unfortunately out of stock. As a result I ordered honey mustard chicken… I will not visit this shop again. It resulted in a bathroom experience I cannot bear to articulate in my usual linguistic flamboyance, so I will attempt to paint an accurate picture of exactly what happened using but a single word: Gush.

If only television advertising were this effective. They’re tough to get right, and easy to be ridiculed by pricks like me. It’s a tightrope. But occasionally an advert appears that sits somewhere in the middle. Adverts that seem so vague that you’re not quite sure how to respond.

There’s one current example of advertising that distorts the far reaches of my mind. These are the ExxonMobil ads. You may have seen them, and they may have washed over your comatose cognizance. As well they might. With their perfect, bleached white walls and sterile production, their myriad of regional accents and their sweeping locational shots of nothingness. If you can break the trance and actually pay attention, even slightly, you’ll be overcome with confusion.

The commercials feature a conglomerate of corporates and scientists detailing molecular diagrams and mathematical equations, and outlining aspects of energy, fuel, and boasting about how they’re “Taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges”. Yeah well I’ve wired a few plugs in my time. You don’t hear me bragging about it.

An ignorant simpleton such as myself will wonder – what exactly is this? I can’t buy it. I can’t enlist its services. What exactly is this advertising? This is essentially an information broadcast.

Hey. Hey you. Citizen. Viewer. Look over here. Look at us. Look what we’re doing.

It’s the equivalent of me appearing on your screens and reciting a brief but eloquently revised soliloquy.

“Alright? I’m Mac. I like to play videogames, procrastinate and type insulting dissertations. Sometimes I brush my teeth twice a day. Sometimes I don’t. I’m unemployed and I quite like tuna. But there’s no correlation between the two. I’m not overly keen on tuna but I do like it. I like salmon as well. I like most fish really. But I don’t like oysters and shrimp.”

Anyway, it turns out that ExxonMobil is an American multinational oil and gas corporation, specialising in public trading and swish but pointless advertising. Advertising that’s not only swish, but as of September 2008 – misleading.

The ASA [Advertising Standards Authority] banned an ad from broadcast stating that its claim that liquefied natural gas is one of the cleanest energy sources in the world was misleading. It certainly misled me.

Who am I to argue with Claudia the engineer? Emma the Natural Gas Specialist? Or Alan, the President of Global Lubricants. That’s right. Global Lubricants. I’d dare not make eye contact with the man, let alone question his authority as a bona fide aficionado of oil and gas.

But as it turns out, some reckon LNG is not one of the world’s cleanest fuels. Some say it causes significant carbon emissions. ExxonMobil contested the ad ban, standing by their claims. Leaving me even more confused than when I started. Who do I believe? It doesn’t really matter, because as I’ve mentioned, the adverts hold no significance for me. I will never, ever, ever, ever, never have any interaction with this company. I can’t buy it. I can’t enlist its services. What the hell is it advertising?

Still perhaps the ASA should have banned the advert on the grounds that it’s useless. Unless of course your name’s Investy McBankerman. In which case it probably serves some proprietary monetary purpose. Maybe bankers should have their own TV channel with carefully selected, 100% relevant advertising and a 24 hour live stream of people swearing at them for plummeting us into ‘global economic meltdown‘, a phrase I’m so sick of hearing I could happily meltdown my own ears and sell them for scrap.

The current Go Compare advertising campaign has frequently topped polls for the worst, most annoying and downright bad ads on TV. It’s exactly this reason that makes it a great ad. Our ungodly hatred for this operatic oaf is precisely what makes him a great figurehead for a campaign. He ensures everyone knows the company and knows the product.

I truly hope the marketing team that devised campaign created this Mr. Creosote [if a little less explosive] tribute act in the knowledge that he is not funny, and incredibly irritating. If they didn’t know that, they should probably go compare the myriad of ways in which one can end one’s life. I hear copious amounts of morphine and mephedrone is quite popular. Either that, or just do what Mr. Creosote did – eat a mint. Oh sir, it is only wafer thin.

And y’know what – I’m just gonna throw it out there – I genuinely like the tenor joke.

Don’t get me wrong, though I can tolerate the Go Compare ads, I can’t tolerate all examples of bad advertising. Halifax, I liked Howard, I really did. But you considered him too jolly for a country in recession, so you axed the poor bastard. Who did you replace him with? Some twats in a radio studio.

ISA ISA Baby?!? What the fuck were you thinking? Bad puns based on bad songs. It was never going to work. You wouldn’t get this shit with Don Draper in charge. But you don’t get any shit with Don Draper in charge. The handsome bastard.

So what was the point of this article? There isn’t one really. You read it though didn’t you? Why? Because I told you to. See – advertising works. Sometimes.


Article first published as ExxonMobil Exxtremely Unnecessary on Technorati.


9 thoughts on “Advertising: The Good, The Bad and The Pointless

  1. Goddamnit, Mac,

    Just too clever. Too clever. I particularly liked your “LEFT and RIGHT” bit, and also the global lube paragraphs. Made me laugh out loud at work, and now I’m in trouble.

    Ah, laughter and admonishments on a Friday! It’s going to be a fine weekend, sure.

    Yours Truly,


    • Haha. Cheers Both. I liked the Left/Right bit myself. I was stuck for inspiration for an article, some guy bought a sandwich and I guess I just rolled with it.

      How’d you like Go Compare man eh? A true British institution. You guys should work on getting him to the States. His mass market potential is as ludicrous large as his moustache.


    • I have 10,000 words of what I think will eventually become a novel. But writing articles for this thing seems to have become more of a priority. It’s quite addictive. Always wondering where my next hit will come from y’know? I NEED another hit. Just one more hit. One more hit and I’m good.


  2. Well, I linked you on my blogroll so maybe your next hit will be from there. :)
    I understand about blogging being addictive. On my old blog I used to be fanatical about content, and then school got crazy and I had to cut back. You know, you could always put together some of your best posts and after you have enough, put together a book of those.

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