Monday, May 28, 2012

[review] can't/can: talkin' loud, sayin' nothing.

Following its seven day 'teaser' run up, the 'Can't' campaign revealed itself on the weekend and, as just about everyone who was paying any attention predicted, was indeed the relaunch/rebadging of the Commonwealth Bank.

CommBank binned their longstanding agency partner, San Francisco based Goodby Silverstein & Partners, back in February and 'Can't/Can' is the first major effort from M&C Saatchi Sydney who won the account back for Australia as it were.

Whilst every man and his dog in the advertising biz has a view on the executional merits of the relaunch I thought it might be interesting to have a look through a brand innovation lens and chuck in a couple of other thoughts on the overall position of the thing.

Still pretty much the defacto word on brand innovation is John Grant's tome from 2006. The principle hypothesis behind the need for brand innovation being that the nature of communications has fundamentally shifted in the connected age in one simple way.

- From: targeting messages at passive audiences

- To ideas being adopted by (or co-created with) groups for whom they are relevant.

Despite the hoo-ha the 'Can't/Can' campaign is firmly embedded in the former, as we shall see.

The build up of 'Can't' existed initially through the use of prominent billboards with the message 'CAN'T' and the url

Should a viewer be tickled by this the idea was further extended at the website with further oblique 'Can't' messages.

As the week progressed other 'Can't' stunts emerged such as lollipop ladies with 'Can't' on the end of their sticks and a truck with huge letters spelling 'Can't' driving round iconic landmarks in Sydney etc.

If this is starting to sound familiar then yes, you are on the right track.
It's an almost tactic-for-tactic replication of the NAB 'Break Up' intervention from 2011.

More on that in a minute.

On the web the @whoiscant twitter bot seemed to be present in various twitter streams including conversations around The Voice tv show and the rugby, again inserting #cant into the streams with various degrees of relevance, mostly thin.

On Sunday the message then switched to 'Can' with a fairly contrived twitter 'reveal' and a 60sec video fronted by actress Toni Collette reciting a poem 'An ode to Can' reputedly penned by M&C Saatchi around the word 'Can'.

The similarity to 'Break Up' from a tactical viewpoint is very apparent. What 'Can't/Can' principally lacks, however, is an IDEA.

Whilst 'Break Up' took a stand alongside banking customers against the industry, an idea that people could get involved with, 'Can't' seems to be CommBank navel gazing and deep in Mott The Hoople Syndrome territory (ie talking about themselves, to themselves). There's plenty of 'image' but precious little 'innovation'.

The whole campaign hangs off a single consistent 'message' but there's little involvement.

For an idea to spread the intended spreaders need to want it to spread.
If no-one knows what it is, then it's chances are significantly hampered.

Indeed the principle spreaders of 'Can't' were firstly Heritage Bank, then Greenpeace and also ANZ Bank who all newsjacked 'Can't' for their own purposes.

Consequently 'Can't' was therefore a fairly static notion, other than one directional messaging dressed as stunts there were no dynamics or currency to speak of. The lack of agility by either the bank or the agency left it wide open for more nimble competitors or agitators to ambush.

'Experience' was also limited, bearing in mind again that no one really knew what the idea was about.
There was nothing to DO. We were somehow supposed to THINK first, which is a serious strategic miscalculation in this day and age.

How 'authentic' is the idea? It's hard to call on that one, we shall see as the the rebrand manifests itself over time. The actual policies and practices of the bank will dictate that one.

In terms of 'culture' versus advertising then one has to say that it's been 100% an advertising construct, and not a particularly smart one. It's not difficult to imagine the entire campaign being built from the award video submission outwards. Maybe that's just the cynic in me.

Though in fairness one could summise that 'Can' is the germ of some positive value-driven story, whether it will inspire people to take action or bears any resemblance to a truth that CommBank will live and breath remains to be seen.

Overall it seems to be a case of talkin' loud, sayin' nothing, however.

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