I think I first saw it when the guy across from me on the train was reading the Metro. And I was intrigued. Just what is going on there? Is that really Usain Bolt impersonating Richard Branson?!
Now I’ve been surrounded by it – it’s everywhere. As yet, I’m not annoyed with it because I’m always seeing it in a new context (instead of the same thing over and over again). In fact, I’m actually interested to see where they’ll take it next.
What a great way to get the message across. I think what they’ve done is just marvellous – it’s simple, it’s clear, it’s clever, it’s engaging, it’s entertaining. All without being too smug. They’re ticking all of the boxes – a great chance of being seen, an excellent link to the brand and an easy to understand (and motivating) message. Get in, Virgin Media!
They have also done a smashing job of identifying both of the people in the ad. This is a frequent failing of ads using celebrities. I might not have recognised Usain Bolt had he not been identified, and they’ve identified the Richard Branson impersonation for me as well. Instead of being confused for the entire time I spend looking at the ads, I am able to get the joke and the link immediately.
Recently, I’ve seen other ads that don’t do this, and I think to myself ‘who the heck is that? Am I supposed to know?’ This is all the more true the closer the Olympics move to us. Just because it’s an Olympic year does not suddenly make me an expert in athletics, gymnastics or swimming (among others).
So, my advice to anyone else using the Olympics and Olympic athletes in their advertising in the run up to 2012: The content and context must make sense and be relevant. And, if you’re going to use specific athletes in your ad, make sure you identify them. Otherwise, you may be wasting your efforts.
Tara Beard-Knowland is a Research Director at Ipsos ASI and wrote this for Campaign Magazine.