Above All â€“ Donâ€™t Be Dumb
April 29th, 2008
Posted by Danny Allen
As part of the Air Forceâ€™s â€œAbove Allâ€ campaign, thereâ€™s a commercial running a lot right now showing a satellite being blown to pieces in a loud, fiery explosion by a missile fired from Earth. Itâ€™s a dramatic 30 second spot, almost certainly designed to build upon the interest in space warfare generated by the US Navyâ€™s recent shooting down of a malfunctioning military satellite.
Itâ€™s also dumb.
The Air Force generally tries to position itself as the branch of the military where the smartest and most educated recruits can go to learn about the newest technology. And then they show a commercial thatâ€™s more Star Wars than physics class.
Not to go all uber-nerd on you, but satellites donâ€™t â€œgo boomâ€ in space. Fire requires three things: 1) fuel, 2) heat, 3) oxygen*. Thereâ€™s no oxygen in space. Itâ€™s a vacuum. Thatâ€™s one of the reasons astronauts wear space suits. The lack of air also means thereâ€™s no â€œboomâ€ sound either. George Lucas made up exploding spaceships because something silently breaking into little pieces isnâ€™t cool looking enough. When the Navy shot down that satellite recently, they didnâ€™t sent up an explosive device, they basically sent up a large bullet that bashed the satellite to pieces by the f
orce of the very-very-high-speed collision.
So what does this have to do with multicultural advertising?
When creating an ad, advertisers want to do a number of things â€“ capture attention, educate the target audience, create some kind of intent, stir action. Nowhere in that list is â€œinsult the audience.â€ A little creative license is fine, but when youâ€™re selling technical skills and scientific education, pretend you have some.
The same goes with multicultural advertising. If youâ€™re going to reach out to a multicultural audience, do it right. Donâ€™t make multicultural ads by plugging your English copy into Babelfish. Donâ€™t assume that youâ€™re reaching the entire Hispanic market using a guy in a sombrero holding a piÃ±ata. You risk insulting your audience instead of reaching them.
In these days of consolidated buying by big general market media shops, this is where multicultural agencies and media companies can provide advertisers with real value. They understand the culture and language of multicultural audiences, because they are immersed in it all day. When reaching out to a multicultural audience, spending the extra time (and money) to find someone who understands the culture(s) that youâ€™re reaching out to can pay big dividends on campaign results and in getting your message across.
Above all â€“ be smart and relevant.
*Or some other volatile gas.