When funny is the standard, try earnest.

13 Apr

Meet Henri, the most depressed feline in France.


Not what you were expecting from a cat video on YouTube, right?

It reminded me of an important incident in New Zealand’s advertising history. The period in which our largest telecommunications company transitioned from perfectly charming ads like this:


… to this little stunner:


Of course, Telecom’s Father & Son was born of a time before market researchers would claim to know best. Before the strategic idea was discussed in a separate room to the creative idea. Before books on advertising insisted that advertising was little more than an interruption. Back when making an ad campaign was not entirely different from making anything else you might find on TV.

This was a time when brands were allowed to tell solemn stories. One of the best ever told was the Anchor Family, an ordinary Kiwi family struggling with the great, new challenge of the 20th Century – how do parents protect their children from the emotional rollercoaster of divorce?

I can’t imagine the connection between divorce and dairy products testing very well in consumer research. But what could possibly connect better with a 90s audience than a realistic story about a family just like their own? The ads would unfold like a drama series, which meant the vignettes couldn’t all have happy endings.


But there was nothing to hold the scripts back from straight comedy.


In a stroke of marketing genius, the Anchor Family was even borrowed by Telecom for this heart-wrencher.


For better or worse, the advertising industry is a different place now. Whatever your position, you’d struggle to find more resonant work from Anchor or Telecom than the stuff produced two decades ago.

It’s perfectly fair to ask why.

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One Response to “When funny is the standard, try earnest.”

  1. Robbie April 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    To be fair, the voiceover on “Henri” is speaking with lolchat pronunciation (garbling syllables etc). The greater point of your post, however, definitely. Very insightful.

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