Five white men walk into a bar: When it comes to advertising, ignore women at your own peril

A friend posted an ad from the Western Australian government’s new Staycation campaign, via WA Premier Mark McGowan.

She asked: “Sometimes it’s worth investing in a creative director for image choice. Hmm …. can you pick what is wrong with this picture?”

I used to be a creative director, and I have some notes.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start in the right order: strategy before creative.

The white man staycation plan

Let’s clarify what a staycation is.

Wikipedia says: “A staycation, or holistay, is a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within day-trip distance of their home and does not require overnight accommodation.”

Hmm, no hotel revenue there.

(Also, I had not heard the term ‘holistay’ before and hope to never hear it again).

Let’s try re-defining staycation as a short stay in a hotel in your own town.

Is our most lucrative target market, clusters of white business guys having a night out, then staying in a hotel instead of getting a cab home?

That doesn’t sound like a winning strategy.

When I catch up with my male mates for drinks, here’s something I would not say: ‘Guys, after drinks why don’t we stay in a nice hotel? We could all have breakfast together, that would be cool.’

If I did, friends I regard as brothers would delete me from their contacts and block me forever for the sheer weirdness of it.

They would be right to do so.

Who’s in charge of purchasing here?

There is one half of the hetero-couple demographic that typically likes to research trips, holidays and weekends away. They’re interested in the finer details of hotels.

That half can be defined as: not men.

Scrolling through thrilling hotels and destinations on the couch, fantasising about holidays you can’t have right now, is way up there on the list of COVID-era female hobbies. Plus it’s a great way to ignore TV sports.

A good strategy would be… no rocket science here… ads that appeal to women. Or at least, don’t repel them. (Non-hetero couples are just looking at that ad shaking their heads.)

Something like: ‘You can’t do your usual holiday this year, so treat yourself to a bit of spontaneous luxury.’

OK, time to consider the creative. Uh-oh.

Ron Burgundy and his mates go for drinks

That photo looks like a reunion of 90’s TV sports commentators. Or the National Asbestos Association executive team celebrating a successful day of government lobbying.

They would call their wives ‘the missus’.

Even if it was based on a good strategy, ads with packs of ageing white guys aren’t helping your brand in 2020.

Putting them all in suits takes the retro vibe to the next level. With ties. I haven’t seen that many ties since 2003. Not even in Adelaide, the tie capital of Australia. And they’re dressed that way for their FUN STAYCATION.

But wait, is that a woman in there? No, wait, she’s serving their drinks.

So it’s worse than no women at all.

She’s visually blocked by the Wall Of Men. It’s a lens exaggeration, but the impression is ‘guys who couldn’t be bothered moving out of the way, so she has to lean in uncomfortably’.

I’d be interested to see the group that approved this shot. I’m guessing it was mostly suited guys. Because at the root of most bad marketing is the client belief that ‘the customer is the same as us’.

That ad shot could even be the clients. I can almost hear them say: ‘This one’s on the expense card lads.’

Get a professional across the details

The small details aren’t really the story here.

But since we’re talking creative director things, please note, clients tend to think quality photos happen by magic. A photographer comes in, checks the lighting, goes ‘smile everybody’, and it’s done.

No, they come from hours of weeding out small elements that look bad and don’t fit the core message.

The ad audience doesn’t see these details, they just know subconsciously that Staycation is a pretty ordinary ad.

Lots of people in shot means an exponential growth in items that need fixing.

You would be amazed what hiring a better photographer and a stylist or art director will do for your brand.

A few notes

The joy of government marketing

Working with a government isn’t easy. Their marketing always carries the strong scent of ‘committee’.

I recently drove through Cessnock, just south of the Hunter Valley wine region. I always enjoy seeing their slogan, an absolute local council gem.

You can just picture the meetings with the marketing agency…

‘So what do we have to offer visitors?’

‘Uhh… wine.’

‘And we’ve got lots of coal mines.’

‘Yes! Mines and wines, that’s gold!’

High fives all round.

The councillor who got a high mark in English at school goes: ‘But the rule of three states that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers.’

Copywriter thinks for a moment.

‘Cessnock: wines, mines, fun times.’

‘No, we can’t have two concrete nouns and one abstract.’

‘I’ve got it,’ says the Mayor. ‘You know what’s our greatest asset?’

And that was that.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics.

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Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake
1 month ago

Ah yes! theres you first mistake, You trusted Wikipedia to know ALL, (oh by the way YOU can edit Wikipedia ) To me and my closest Staycation has always been about a overnight stay, Hotel revenue included ( and I’m not even in Marketing, seem the only way you can get your message across is to critics somebody else.