Kim Penstone

The in-attentive economy

2004-07-07 07:23

Two very different advertising campaigns have captured the hearts and minds of South Africans over the past couple of weeks. Neither brings tears to the eyes, nor an ache to the belly, but both clearly understand the first rule of advertising in a modern, time-starved and marketing-cluttered society: He Who Does Not First Attract Attention Is Dead In The Water.

The first campaign is for Volvo. You've seen the television spots, which introduce "The Mystery of Dalaro" - the story of 32 inhabitants of Dalarö, who apparently all bought the new Volvo S40 on the same day, for no apparent reason.

The ad draws you in with a mystery, then leaves you in the dark, intimating instead that the answer lies on the Volvo website. Those of us who were intrigued enough to log onto the site the following morning, then spent over ten minutes in front of our computer screens, viewing a full-length documentary, spending that precious time in the constant company of the Volvo brand.

And it doesn't end there. Those of us who spent those precious minutes in front of our computer screens also know that the mystery still hasn't been solved. So we're eagerly awaiting the next instalment, which we'll watch with as much fascination.

The second campaign is for Nando's. No doubt you saw the ad for "Wando's", then perhaps caught some of the following day's publicity from Nando's, in which the company threatened legal action against "Wando's". You may have cottoned onto the fact that it was just Nando's, up to its old tricks, but you may also have fallen for it - hook, line and sinker.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter. The stunt got people thinking and talking, just like the Volvo campaign. The initial ads were only 30 seconds long, but there are few among us who spent those 30 seconds with each brand and then promptly forgot about them. Chances are, we spent well over 30 minutes thinking, talking or taking action prompted by the ads in question.

And, like it or not, that's good advertising. Because as consumers become more and more immune to marketing messages, so marketers (and by extension, their advertising agencies and advertising campaigns) will have to stand taller, shout louder, and dance even wilder to grab our attention.

It's all about making me stop what I'm doing or thinking, if only for two seconds, to concentrate on what you're trying to say. And to make me stop, you've got to give me a good reason.

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  • Kim Penstone is editor of Marketingweb, a website wholly owned by Moneyweb that focuses on the media, marketing and advertising arena. For more of the same, go to

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