What if Paul the Octopus could also predict the future of Advertising?

Hello, today I have special guest blogger, David 18 years old of the fantastic French language blog Ad’ Times.  David’s fantastically long-winded post is about the rise of “reactive” advertising.  Featuring guest appearances by Paul the Octopus, the French football team (sadly) and Vuvuzelas, this fascinating article will leave you with lots to think about!

Let’s talk about advertising!  After all, I’m contributing to an advertiser’s blog, and I myself am a true lover of advertising.  Without any provocation, I would like to ask “what if Paul the octopus could also predict the future of Advertising?”

I. Ads and the Octopus: an ephemeral romance

If there was one event this year that continued to come up in advertising worldwide, it would have to be the FIFA World Cup.  We saw ads in all media from most major brands, such as: Nike, Adidas, Puma, Coca-Cola, Peps, Toyota…etc.  We vaunted the value of sports, the importance of the event, the…controversial…French football team, South Africa.  In spite of this all, one particular phenomenon stood out of the crowd: Paul.

With 8 arms, over 200 suction cups and the brain the size of a pistachio, Paul has attracted media buzz worldwide for his startlingly accurate predictions.  Featured on television, in the papers and, naturally on Internet, it didn’t take long for ads to get in on the act.

It all began with Pepsi via BBDO Beirut, who sent out the first billboard.  Although they were the first, the ad lacks in originality with its old logo and ample white space.

Even though the World Cup is over, a new billboard with Paul has shown up.  This time the ad came out of South Africa done by Ogilvy Johannesburg, for the e-commerce website Exclus1ves.co.za.  As we can see below, our friend Paul is making the choice.  This ad seems focused on the octopus’s talents.

These two print ads were joined by a TV spot for Citroën (see below).  All three ads follow a pretty basic formula: current event + buzz + advertisement.


These examples show us that not only has Paul the Octopus already made his mark on advertising, but also that this particular World Cup has been defined by an unheard of advertising response.  Paul hasn’t been the only world cup meme to be exploited.  Coming up, Vuvuzelas, results, and scandals…

II – The World Cup 2010: Ads in real time!

Throughout the World Cup were various creative campaigns tied to specific games and scores.  This quick reaction time is due in large part to the size of the event and its presence on social networks, worldwide.


Reviled by many, the Vuvuzela became one of the cult symbols of this years World Cup.  As result, it showed up in a fair amount of ads.

Kit Kat and its agency JWT Brussels, launched this campaign in mid June.  The growing annoyance with the Vuvuzela makes for a strong and simple ad.

The promotion of Toy Story 3 in Italy (visual above) was different than the promotion in other European countries because it was the only one to use the Vuvuzela.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94frhollceo&feature=player_embedded [/youtube]

OFF! Draft FCB

The Vuvuzela has often been criticized for its deafening, mosquito-like noise.  As a result, the agency Draft FCB decided to create a spot for OFF! insecticide by using the Vuvzela to promote its product.


In the Netherlands, we see the Vuvuzela being used less creatively than for OFF!  Still, you have to admire the timlieness of TNT Post.


As far as events are concerned, Hyundai really stands out.  Most notably, their 35 meter-long Vuvuzela.


Vuvuzelas represent, to a certain extent, the unique cultural aspect of this year’s World Cup.  But that’s not all! We can’t possibly forget the…er…distinctive performance of the French football team :).

The French Team

Jeered worldwide, our magnificent national team was particularly appealing to advertisers everywhere.  Thanks to player Thierry Henry’s hand, the quality of the playing, the numerous defeats and the general rudeness of the team, advertisers had a field day!

Ireland took great advantage of the French team’s shortcomings.  First off, Pizza Hut in Ireland created a special campaign on the web: for a goal scored against the French team, each Irish supporter got a free pizza.  Despite the limits of 350 pizzas for 350 Facebook fans—the campaign was a great success.


Curry’s—an Irish electronics chain—made fun of Thierry Henry by producing two films mocking him.


Mexico, another football adversary of France’s, joined in on the taunting.  An ad for Internet provider Yoo, is a mix of Star Wars, a few well-worn clichés, and insults.



The beer Carling knew how to use the worldwide attention generated by the World Cup to its advantage.

Indeed, at the end of every game against England, there was a Carling spot that incorporated the final score and adapted it to the plotline of the ad.  Check out these two great examples of creative timlieness:


0-0 England vs Algeria


1-1 England vs USA

These spots go to show us that the World Cup was not only visible in advertising, but closely followed by advertising.

In addition to Carling comes another excellent example:

III- Post World Cup

The end of the World Cup did not signal the end of its related ads.  Obviously the final scores and Spain’s victory were celebrated in many ads.

“Today we must go to the depths of men”

This billboard by TBWA\Neboko Amsterdam.

After its enormous campaign Write the Future, Nike is concluding its communication with the spot: The Future has been Written.


After all these football related ads, one could ask if this type of reactivity in advertising is exclusive to this one particular sport?

Frankly, the answer is no.  Indeed, current events and advertising are becoming more and more closely aligned.

IV – Sports are Sports
It’s true, sports have never been this high profile.  The biggest events are followed by millions of viewers, allowing advertisers to make knowing winks at a captive audience.

The perfect example this year is the Wimbeldon Mahut vs Isner tennis match.  11 hours and 5 minutes on the court made up of five sets: 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 70-68 and beating 12 world records.

Naturally, this was picked up in the advertising world right away:

Done before the Vuvuzela ad, this print ad was an excellent way for the brand to counter the bad buzz brought on by Greenpeace.


And who could forget this brilliant spot done by condom manufacturer, Durex, who, with a few puns and some cheesy music put together a witty ad for their brand of long lasting condoms?

V) And now?

So what’s the deal now? Aside from the sports world, other newsworthy events have shown up in ads.  The most recent example comes from the iPhone 4 reception problems.  This little tech bug was a goldmine for Apple’s competitors.

Samsung was the first to fire by gently poking fun at the iPhone 4’s reception problems.  Motoral went a step further with its full page “No Jacket Required” print ad– referencing the bumpers that the iPhone 4 requires.

VI) In Closing…

We can easily conclude that advertising has been able to adapt itself very well to different current events.  My original title “What if Paul the octopus could also predict the future of advertising?” is of course, a joke—Paul the octopus didn’t start this new wave of current-events advertising, rather international buzz is at the real reason why.

The various ads presented in this article came out at key moments, when a given topic was dominating the news media, worldwide.  2010 has seen an enormous quantity of this type of advertising.

Carling’s ads are perhaps the most ground breaking, showing an ability to react in real time to the results of a game.  The iPhone 4 case shows us that even breaking news can make for compelling advertising and can give a leg up to the competition

This is the second article I’ve published outside of my blog, and I would like to say to all of you who are reading this sentence: thank you, for staying with me.

Naturally, this article is hardly exhaustive, I welcome comments and other ideas.  Enjoy!

David C (Ad’Times on Twitter)

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