My favorite word–at least in a marketing context–is “provocative.” When you think about it, that’s really what marketing is all about: provoking a target audience to pay attention and respond to your story. Sometimes you have to take chances to be provocative, and on occasion that can mean doing something that’s completely unexpected.
That’s clearly what the ad agency for the island of Aruba is trying to do with its TV campaign featuring the comedian Lewis Black. The campaign shows Mr. Black complaining about things most people would consider to be Aruba’s assets: the white beaches and clear blue water that make it difficult to concentrate on work; the friendly people who smile at you endlessly; the bright, sunny ambience that removes all excuses for being depressed.
I can just imagine the agency’s pitch: “All the Caribbean islands’ ads look the same. So we want to take a different approach–Instead of showing people talking about how nice Aruba is, we’re going to show a curmudgeon complaining that Aruba is too nice!”
While I have to give them at least some props for taking a novel approach, the ads don’t quite work for me–and I’m a big fan of Aruba as well as Lewis Black’s ranting style of humor. The main problem is that the ads just aren’t all that funny. I find myself straining to find the punchline that never seems to arrive, and asking myself, “Why couldn’t they have found a better way to utilize his talents?” And I would think that viewers who aren’t aware of Mr. Black must be asking themselves, “Who is this guy, and if Aruba’s so great, why isn’t he enjoying himself?”
Ads should never make their target audience work this hard to get whatever point they’re trying to make. A much simpler–and potentially funnier–approach would be to show how Aruba turned the world’s biggest curmudgeon into a smiling, laughing, sunny optimist. Contrast cranky Lewis on the streets of New York with life-loving Lewis on the beaches of Aruba. It’s a simple idea, but simple is good–and Lewis Black could make it fresh and, well, provocative.
The Aruba campaign’s tagline is, “90,000 friends you haven’t met yet.” I say show Aruba transforming Lewis Black into someone you’d want to hang with, and then change the line to, “90,001 friends you haven’t met yet.”