BRENDAN O'BRIEN: TG4 shows how to get ahead in advertising game

There have been all sorts of gloomy predictions about the fate of the advertising industry in a modern world where nobody can be bothered sitting through a 30-second ad on a smart phone or tablet, never mind the five interminable minutes it takes for a TV break.

But events this week have proven again Joe and Josephine Soap’s dwindling attention is still there to be captured.
 
Put simply, you know you have done your job as an advertising exec when your body of work transcends the ‘forgotten in the blink of an eye’ stage and transcends to one where it
assumes a position front and centre in the court of public opinion. We have seen that yet again with efforts from Paddy Power and TG4 have in recent days.
 
Roy Keane’s decision to take the Irish bookmaker to the Commercial Court in Dublin precludes any comment on their Braveheart-inspired idea that was rolled out on the back of a truck near the Aviva Stadium ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s European Championship qualifier against Scotland, but the old credo about there being no such thing as bad publicity comes to mind.
 
The same has to be said for TG4’s promo for its Ladies Football coverage which was released – unwittingly, it seems – on the TV station’s Twitter feed this week.
 
Strip away the debate and controversy it has generated for just a second and you have to say it is a superb piece of advertising, in that the image is arresting and the tagline is short, snappy and arresting.
 
 
One look at the female footballer silhouetted against a black backdrop and cradling a football as a mother would a pregnant bump and the eye is transfixed. “The most import nine months in a woman’s life,” the blurb explains. It is simple and brilliant, but it has raised the hackles of many who claim it sends out the wrong message.
 
It should be noted here an ‘Irish Examiner’ poll conducted on the back of the ad’s appearance found that two-thirds of people gave it the thumbs up. What the poll didn’t tell us, of course, was the breakdown of male to female respondents and the fact is that the majority of comments in favour of the ad on another well-known sports website were posted by men.
 
There was at least one other sexism ‘storm’ this week and it came on the final day of The Open at St Andrews when BBC commentator Peter Alliss made a light-hearted remark about how Zach Johnson’s wife Kim might have been contemplating the purchase of a new kitchen if the American could hole his putt and claim the famous Claret Jug.
 
Like a lot of other people, this column felt the remark was distinctly old-fashioned. Not in any sexist sense, though, but rather because if there were any such musings entering Kim Johnson’s mind at that point they would surely have involved something considerably more expensive and flash than a kitchen. The winner’s cheque was more than £1.5m, after all.
 
 
Staying with the Alliss furore for a second: the man is 84 years of age and complaints he is somehow too old-fashioned are about as logical as a customer returning a glass of water in a restaurant because it is too wet. If anything, his comment a day earlier about Paul Dunne and the joke about a liking for older women as he hugged his mum was far more worthy of a knuckle rap.
 
There has, as usual, been very little middle ground in the debates about the TG4 and Alliss stories. On one side, we have those claiming the ‘PC brigade’ - that dastardly and shadowy world organisation that shares a corporate office with the Illuminati and SPECTRE – has again sought to construct a mountain out of something that shouldn’t even merit a molehill.
 
On the other, are those who say these latest stories are just more examples of how female sportspeople are framed and judged on matters other than those related to the games they play, even if the TG4 ad is light years away from the offence caused by a well-known crisp manufacturer’s ads in recent years or the awful ‘nude’ kit unveiled by a Colombian women’s
cycling team last year.
 
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, this was not. What is maybe most surprising of all is that, leaving gender issues aside, the tagline about a woman’s most important nine months has not been criticised.
 
This, after all, carries connotations similar to that overblown quote from Bill Shankly about how football wasn’t a matter of life and death, but that it was more important than that.
 
But then, another interpretation of the ad is that women are more than just “baby machines”, as one woman put it on Twitter. Whatever your view on it, to call it “disgraceful”, as another commentator did, is surely pushing things too far. Whatever your opinion, you can’t deny that the ad worked.
 
Email: brendan.obrien@examiner.ie Twitter: @Racko


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