Positioning by Subtext: Sex vs Romanticism.

Von six

What do dictatorship and advertisements have in common?
Well, it is hard to disagree.

In my “series on positioning” I described at great length why it is so hard to break the communication cartels, i.e. the belief in the one and only recipe for success, in advertising. Simultaneously, I described the ways out.

Positioning by subtext is the last resort for positioning. If I will ever end up in a dictatorship, I will be very well trained for it through advertising.
Once upon a time, when our telephone market was made more liberal, there were two telephone companies: Otelo and Teldafax (not to be confused with the electricity company of today).

Otelo started a wonderful and at the time very popular TV spot. They had spent a lot of money and the world’s best producer had made the film. Here is the story: a plump but rather sweet girl calls the attractive man of her dreams, whose picture she has on her bedside table. Here is the chief attraction of the story: as soon as the model man answers, she replaces the receiver and throws herself onto the bed full of lovesickness and bashfulness. This is how Otelo advertised an invoicing by seconds – which was something the competition, who invoiced by the minute, could not offer. On seeing the video, you immediately start feeling for the nice girl with her hopeless love. It is a triumph for the good and the romantic side of the human soul.

Our customer, Teldafax, never gave us any restrictions as to what we should use against Otelo (positioning is always against something).  But we knew that we were dealing with something totally different in this case: the communication cartel. A sweet love story is the strongest possible advert item.
Consequently, our spot, too, was about a love affair with exactly the same ingredients. Just the main characters were a little different: they were pigs. A female pig sits on an armchair looking at the picture of her lover on the table and in the background you hear the 1920ies hit: “No pig calls me; no sow is interested in me”. Then comes the anchorman: “But certainly – for only … cents per minute” (we modified the price on a weekly basis, it was the time of constant price deterioration).

And what is the subtext now?
It is also a nice story, isn’t it?
Aren’t animals the great carriers of messages in advertising?

Two significant groups of people experienced the subtext in two very different ways: the men found the pig story quite sweet, somehow humorous.
And the ladies? They smelled a rat immediately. It is about paid sex, isn’t it…?

Consequently, we were praised by the male employees of the agency, while the female employees scolded us. On the other hand: perhaps the men only saw the business success as reflected in pure numbers.

The Teldafax spot increased the turnover by 40% – and we are talking a three-digit million turnover.

So what is the moral of the story? Neither of the two companies survived.

(Translated by EG)

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