Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An open letter to Whitcoulls

I have just watched an elaborate commercial for Whitcoulls: a bookseller here in New Zealand. Message: "A little bit wonderful every day".

The scenario involves the naming of a baby. Couple, woman pregnant, trying to imagine a name for their pending nascent arrival. Their is no narration in the narrative, but the dulcet sound of The Israelites, a hit for Desmond Dekker & The Aces.

Unfortunately for Whitcoulls, the music simply reminds me of the commercial for Maxell audio tapes:

Now that is a strong, relevant idea.

Not sure about the Whitcoulls one.

Let's straighten out a couple of things. Whitcoulls is a variety retail store with an emphasis on books, stationery and gifts.

The Whitcoulls ad(s) seem to try to shoehorn a song lyric into the commercial to imply some sly meaning - which they may do.

Unfortunately the disconnection between the message and the brand's projection sems vast - and that is before we even introduce the consumer into the equation.

I think one of the tests would be if international readers of this blog were able to discern anything significant from the Whitcoulls commercial I have shown? (leave a comment, if you will).

When the new commercial is posted on YouTube (it will be) I'll put it here.

There was loud crowing for new 'brand' campaign in the media here, when the atmospheric pressure first started dropping in the economy - before the box was kicked out from beneath the feet of world markets. I wonder if it is the correct approach today. Not saying its not. Just wondering aloud. I trust wondering is still allowed?

I may have to visit some Whitcoulls stores with a camera to see how the folks at the coal face feel about the messages.

My feeling is that the campaign is not sustainable. Watch for a change.

More than ever my thinking errs towards: Simplicity, Utility, Relevance - none of which I feel the Whitcoulls ads offer.


If you would like to read the agency (FCB) spin - here it is. Good for a laugh. Reminds me of reading a rationale of Nausea by Jean Paul Satre.


  1. Anonymous9:50 p.m.

    I find the Whitcoulls ad quite funny and nice. But if there wasn't the Whitcoulls identification at the end, I would have taken it as a Post-it ad. Good involuntary brand boosting for 3M. Hope they gave Whitcoulls a nice Thank You Card for this.

    Yet what comes to mind - also probably unintended by the FCB creators of the story line - to a non-NZ viewer who does have an affinity to NZ (and knows the Whitcoulls outlets)is the theme of family violence. While the couple only shout at each other, it seems pretty spot on considering the high rate of domestic - let's call it frictions, to be nice - that seem to appear in NZ families, especially in non-Pakeha ones. Insofar the ad seems to have its feet firmly on the ground.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts.
    Your 'take' on family violence is an interesting association to make (which further restablishes the point that everyone except Whitcoull's seems to benefit from the massage.

    (BTW: I prefer comments that are 'owned' to anon, sometimes I don't pubish unless there is an identity to accompany the remark).