Advertising that breaks the fourth wall is doing my head in

Honda direct email_breaking the 4th wallIt’s a truism that people are more marketing savvy nowadays. The average focus group attendee will have some understanding of the marketing process, and perhaps have strategies to use it to their advantage.

Advertisers were always bound to start toying with this notion of being “in on the joke”, responding to it in playful ways.

What used to be witty and subversive is now feeling desperate. I’m seeing more and more self-referential advertising, with brands (or agencies pushed for ideas) giving a knowing wink to this knowledge.

Breaking the fourth wall as actors would put it.

Get the tone right and it can be playful, different, adult-to-adult.

Get it wrong and it is intensely annoying.

Three direct email_breaking the 4th wall

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About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at a communications agency. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Marketing, Planning, Social Media, Strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Advertising that breaks the fourth wall is doing my head in

  1. Simon Riley says:

    The most recent Go Compare ads are a positive example of that. The Stephen Merchant Barclay’s ads are another one. But it’s long been a comedic trope in advertising, from Michael Winner’s “calm down dear, it’s a commercial” back to Vic and Bob’s “Cadbury’s Boost: slightly rippled with a flat underside” in the early 90s and I’m sure many before that. But yes where it used to be subversive it’s now part of the wallpaper.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Simon Shaw says:

      I’d forgotten about those Simon. How could I have overlooked the Winner?

      It’s the tone that feels different now. To me, all too often ingratiating rather than subversive.

  2. Tyler Smith says:

    It is true they’re getting wittier and wittier with their come backs. They’re also getting political, like the way Oreo did the whole rainbow Oreo to show their support for LGBT Rights. Advertisements are doing a lot more then just showing the product.

    I also thought the ‘Ship Happens’ that KMart came up with is rather clever.

    Black and White Paper

  3. silvermoo2 says:

    Similarly, many radio ads are now trying to make a virtue out of the necessity of including the t’s and c’s by referencing them in the main part of the ad. You can understand the temptation to do so, but it does get old quite quickly.

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