Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Straplines that last...but not as nature intended

Half a dozen times every day someone googles 'Tense, nervous headache?' and Nothing works faster than Anadin' and ends up on this site. They're probably sadly disappointed since they get directed to my discussion of the last day of the final Ashes test in 2005.

While Anadin may well have derived from anodyne (originally a necklace given to children to soothe the pain of teething back in the 18th century) 'nothing works faster than Anadin' was of those iconic slogans that I'd expect to turn up in an episode of Mad Men .

But check into it and what does it mean? Well, my family always read it as Nothing works faster than Anadin.....and therefore it was rubbish and we bought Disprin instead.

In fact, we corrupted the slogan to: 'Tense nervous headache? Take nothing, because nothing works faster than Anadin.'

We so often accept advertising slogans without question when they're either meaningless: 'Daz washes whiter' - whiter than what? Whiter than stomping your clothes in a muddy field or sloshing them round in the toilet bowl? Or simply vacuous - 'committed to quality' - what? Poor quality? Bad quality? Quality needs some kind of supporting statement - a comparison or superlative aspect to bring any kind of meaning to it.

I know from past experience as Nationwide Building Society's chief marketing copywriter back in the late '80s that such sloganising is difficult. We don't have the benefit of hindsight or a level of objectivity to step out of the business and look back in - especially when copy's being written in-house. Though I'm still proud, for some unknown reason, of my strapline: 'A loan for all reasons' which graced the leaflet dump bin in branches years after I left the building society.

Anyway, it always makes me chuckle when a seemingly innocuous slogan comes back to bite the business it promotes. Not long ago, Nat West was hitting us in seemingly every ad break with 'There is another way' .

Another way to bank? Brilliant! Unfortunately, due to its ownership, 'another way' now means doing business with the seemingly reckless RBS Group, tarnished by its execrable recent performance and the arrogance of Fred the Shed.....not another way that too many people are likely to be interested in at the mo'.

Credit to Nat West - they've swiftly sashayed into 'Helpful Banking' with a stream of new ads selling us the message that they're not really selling to us...hmmm.

Anyway, there are many more ad slogans with unintended consequences - I'm sure I'll think of a few more to share in the future.

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