The Blogfather loves taking the proverbial. Here he looks at how parody can be used for something meaningful.
Aldi is flying. Far from having to create fictitious, overstated profits like Tesco, they are posting genuinely impressive growth results as they bite their way into market share. They have an aggressive, reactive marketing strategy that’s bringing home the affordable bacon.
Yet the Christmas period has been traditionally tough for them, as consumers like to ‘trade up’ and treat themselves to quality goods. So, to support their new and improved product range, Aldi released a perfectly timed piece of parody that sends up the very up-market John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’ ad.
Apparently it was off-the-cuff, with just 10 days between script sign-off and it airing on TV, which is the kind of quick reaction most large brands just don’t legislate for in their primarily long-term strategies.
Parody gives advertising and creative industries the freedom to adapt existing works for comedic effect and, albeit indirectly, commercial gain.
Parody is an easy and fruitful way to piggy-back on a bigger, more successful phenomenon for increased exposure/sales. The Aldi ad has just under 1.9m views on YouTube, a great number, although this is just a tenth of the John Lewis original.
In a recent exception to copyright protection, parody gives advertising and creative industries the freedom to adapt existing works for comedic effect and, albeit indirectly, commercial gain. The new laws came into effect only last year, allowing “fair dealing” with copyrighted works for the use of parody. This term is somewhat vague however and, as Oliver Smith, intellectual property consultant solicitor at Keystone Law warns:
“Companies should beware, however, not to make their spoof confusingly similar to famous ads as this could amount to unlawful passing off, particularly in online ads where traffic might go to the spoof ad thinking it is the famous one.”
But there are no such problems for Aldi, as a John Lewis spokeswoman acknowledged the parody, saying the retailer was "flattered", but wouldn't comment further, no doubt happy at all the extra talk around the advert, whilst keeping Aldi firmly in their place. Everyone is gorging on their slice of Moon pie.
Although as a side note, they were a bit naughty in relation to the product comparison they made, but the Advertising Standards Authority weren’t much bothered, stating, "if people are concerned over whether the ad is misleading about pricing, get in contact with us and let us know."*
A John Lewis spokeswoman acknowledged the parody, saying the retailer was "flattered", but wouldn't comment further, no doubt happy at all the extra talk around the advert, whilst keeping Aldi firmly in their place. Everyone is gorging on their slice of Moon pie.
Paris saw some cracking subvertising by Brandalism this week, in the form of fake ads appearing in the clueless JCDecaux’s bus shelter ad space. As much as the Aldi ad made me smile, it’s when parody takes on a spikey satirical tone that it’s more to my liking. That’s probably down to being brought up on Have I Got News For You.
We’ve blogged on the merits of anarchic advertising before, and in this instance Brandalism are taking aim at the corporate sponsors the COP21 climate talks. With echoes of Dismaland, these posters deftly parody those corporations, including Volkswagen, whose sponsoring of a climate change summit is more than a little hypocritical and questionable. It’s a bit like if Carlsberg did Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
I know it isn’t Brandalism’s main point/motivation for action, but I do on occasions wonder if JCDecaux’s nigh-on monopolisation of London’s outdoor space is a good thing. If they decide they don’t want to put up an ad, for whatever reason, then what can you do? Go urban guerrilla I suppose. It’s a bit like the media agency that refused to put on the Church of England ad in cinemas the other week, even though our governing bodies said the content was fine. The Digital Cinema Media agency seems to have an iron grip on most of the major UK cinema advertising.
Campaigns like Brandalism are important, not only in highlighting issues that transcend advertising and marketing, but as a jolt to the system, in terms of what we just accept and do not question (as well as highlighting that JCDecaux really need to look at the whole lock situation on their bus shelter 6 sheets). Sometimes you need to bend the rules and push at those boundaries. Just don’t get caught by the fuzz.
So, let’s hope those citizens who are willing to take a risk by taking the piss remain uninhibited.
*In light of last week’s blog about banned ads, and how only one complaint led to an ad being pulled, I feel a The Timewaster Letters moment coming on for the Blogfather…what’s the ASA’s address?
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