By Colin Jowell

When the antics of the advertising industry crack a mention on the ABC’s MediaWatch, we have a problem.

Recently, the show took to task a number of so called “innovations”, following up on them to see if any of them had made the light of day. 

Some of the brands in the firing line included:

KFC - for their “finger licking good” nail polish

Durex – for their vibrating underwear called “Fundawear”  (yep, released in 2014 and still not available!)

Dolmio - for their wifi-blocking peppermill to save family dinner time

Domino’s - for their delivery robot 

OMO - for their peggy smart peg

In fairness, some of these items could theoretically hit the market at some point in the future, so the story was a little harsh (is there a MediaWatch for MediaWatch?).

And in some of the brands defence, what else are they supposed to do? There’s only so many times you can add more fancy additives to washing powder, and support it with animated molecules in the advertising, before we all lose interest forever.

According to MediaWatch, a representative said the above new nail polish wasn’t ready for mass production, but that they “were giving previews to the media to test the market reaction”. (Because in this modern day of bull-bingo, we can’t just say the words “publicity stunt”.)

In an age where every consumer trend report you see talks about the “savvy” customer; their growing distrust of brands and their desire for authenticity - these shameless pleas for attention have no place.

And worse still, having attracted the attention, but having no way to fulfill on the demand you create, is truly sloppy marketing.

Pulling the wool over the eyes of the customer won’t work, and while the effort to break the mould of traditional advertising is to be applauded, we shouldn’t use “innovation” as an excuse to ignore the fundamentals:

  • be absolutely relevant to your brand - allowing you to sell more of your existing product, or opening the avenue to sell a new one
  • solve a problem for the customer, or be incredibly entertaining in an authentic way

The discipline of marketing has a once-in-a-generation opportunity – to align with the data and tech capabilities of the business to create genuine product and service breakthroughs.

But stunts, played for publicity masquerading as impact, will relegate marketing to the backbench. Knowing what problem the customer needs solved isn’t easy, but it’s still the only thing that really matters.