Advertising; A fruitful campaign that's lost its fizz

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The Independent Culture
Advertisements designed to raise a laugh invariably produce a longer-lasting effect than those that do not. Acres of research is available to prove it. Creating a comic ad, however, is an imprecise science - as the latest TV commercial for fizzy drinks brand Tango shows only too well.

Sales of Tango have benefited strongly in recent years from a surreal and cultish TV advertising campaign created by London agency HHCL & Partners. The latest execution, however, is already prompting some to speculate that the once successful advertising formula has shot off the rails.

In the new ad we are introduced to scenes of mayhem. Colourful jesters in funny hats, wigs and painted faces juggle, clown and tumble amidst a frenzy of cars, lorries and hovering helicopters. It's a school for clowns and, as the grey-suited presenter obliquely explains: "It's a first step back into society ... In five years' time you'll be buying a house from these little kiddies." These clowns are so unfunny, you see, that they're being re-trained as estate agents. And the man from Tango, it seems, is footing the bill.

Exactly what the ad is trying to do here remains unclear. The joke (if there is one) is too obscure. To be fair, you can hardly expect a surreal and cultish ad campaign to comprise simple puns and clear punchlines. And deconstructing a comic sketch you don't understand seems like a cheap jibe. But let's face it, Tango'sprevious ads have been successful because they were bizarre. This latest commercial falls down for the opposite reason: it's not bizarre enough.

Remember the giant orange man with rubber hands who Tango'd unsuspecting shoppers? Or the sexy-voiced talking apple Tango can or, joy of joys, the xenophobic marketing executive challenging all comers in a giant boxing ring atop the White Cliffs of Dover for Tango blackcurrant? After repeated viewing, Tango's latest offering fails to stand out. Which is strange given the support given by Tango parent Britvic - with all those fast cars and helicopters the budget can't have been cheap - and the calibre of the ad agency involved.

Still, maybe they're on to something. Let's not forget that on his first outing, the Tango Orangeman was greeted by many outside the brand's core youth market with bemusement and even complaint (for fear the nation's children would follow the rubber-handed slapper's example). The Tango crew could simply be one step ahead of the times. Perhaps.

Meg Carter