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Lovable Morons are back

Every few years, they come back.

The ad campaigns that depict the advertiser’s customers (or their own staff) as lovable morons.

IBM is doing it now in the UK with its gormless IT staff doing cartoony things.

Barclays Bank is doing it with their UK retail banking campaign showing it’s bumbling staff coming up with idiot/savant ideas (£100 cash back with every car loan!) between bouts of trashing the offices.

There was a big wave of this kind of thing in the US when I was a young ad pup and still under the influence of David Ogilvy (“The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife.”). A TV director called Joe Sedelmaier got rich and famous with ads that showed each advertiser’s customers as cretins (remember ‘Where’s the Beef?‘ for Wendy’s?).

I guess I’m still under David Ogilvy’s influence — I’m just not comfortable with ads that belittle the target audience. Rules are made to be broken, but I’m not sure the upside in the recent examples outweighs the rather obvious downside.

As far as portraying one’s own staff as idiots, well, it can be entertaining. And as a Barclays customer, I can attest to its accuracy. But remind me: why would anyone want to give their business to morons?

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