Send in the Clones
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
I make ads, so I pay attention to other people's.
Trends come and go in advertising, like any other art-related endeavor. And, like any other art-related endeavor, "creative borrowing" is rampant.
The Clone Crutch
One recent trend I've noticed, heavily fueled by said creative borrowing, is what I'll call the "clone crutch." It goes like this: The ad's main character has a twin self. In some instances it's evil; in others, it's helpful; or for still others it's simply there to add a little instant humor. It's the epitome of talking to one's self and, I can safely say, painfully overdone. It's become a crutch, really.
We can probably trace this approach way back to Elmer Fudd contending with a doppelganger dual on his shoulders: one Elmer with wings and a halo, the other in red with horns. In modern day ad-dom, though, I blame two classic campaigns from a couple years back: Snickers, where everyone from football coaches to lumberjacks becomes a hungry, more annoying version of themselves until they have a Snickers; and DirectTV, with its now long-running campaign begun by Rob Lowe compared to a slew of less savory "Robs."
So, suddenly, there's a rash of replicas in ads, a deluge of duplicates. The "why" has, I think, been answered already in this post, but let's move on to the "so what?" So what if the same technique is being used in a lot of different ads?
Well, it matters for the same reason you can't slap claws on a squirrel and call it a lobster. The concept for an ad must grow organically from the brand. It's not something to be developed (or "borrowed") in a vacuum, then shoehorned into a TV spot, or print ad, or web video, then "branded" with a logo at the end to "tie it all together."
The first example of misguided conceptual cloning is an otherwise amusing TV commercial for StubHub. A guy on a bus uses his phone to book tickets for the big game and, in his celebratory mood, his mini-me-sized inner fan pops out, causing minor mayhem amongst the passengers.
The second example involves a woman driving with a duplicate of herself in the backseat. I've seen the ad at least three or four times and cannot for the life of me remember what they talk about...possibly saving money somewhere?
This later ad drives my point home, while the StubHub does win points for sheer cuteness. The point is that I needed to Google both ads to remember the companies that ran them. In fact, I couldn't even find the second ad and, after several search variations, gave up.
Both ads to varying degrees fall in to the squirrelobster trap. They start with the concept, then paste on the brand. The typical result, then, is an ad that may be water cooler worthy, but, alas, no one can remember the brand it was promoting.
The lesson, here, is to always start with your unique, well-defined brand when developing any advertising or marketing. Ask yourself, without my logo involved, could this ad be for any product or service? My competitors product or service?
And, should you need help creating such ads, built from the brand up, I know a guy.