Claire Beale on Advertising

How a smart ad campaign tried to turn British men into domestic gods

I wonder if real people might be a little disappointed with the Dan Fielding story. I mean, the guy has led us on. We wanted to be led on, of course; that's the game. But today's payday and ... well, you might feel a little short-changed. Unless you're in marketing, in which case Dan Fielding's is a story for our age.

You're forgiven for not knowing exactly who Dan Fielding is; after all, that's what's tantalised us for the past 10 months. Dan Fielding has been a mystery we've been invited to solve.

A self-styled "domestic god", Fielding started appearing on YouTube back in February with a series of home-made shows that he was hoping would get commissioned for proper telly. There were tips on how to keep a tidy house and rustle up some tasty food, all designed to help domestically challenged young guys. Dan also got himself a page on MySpace, where more emerged about his life and his ferocious vanity and ambition. But Dan never seemed quite for real. How many men do you know who can cook fish in a dishwasher? Or get wax off a tie?

Of course, this is 2007, this is the internet and this is advertising. And Dan's about as real as a drum-playing primate. The signs have been there all along. For starters, Dan has made no secret of the fact that his passion for domesticity and his search for a TV show is being backed by a mystery brand; in fact, visitors to his YouTube and MySpace sites have been invited to enter a competition to work out who his sponsor is.

Clues have been seeded in the YouTube clips, and entrants were promised the chance of winning a top prize worth £700. In the real world, few people would slaver over 700 quid, but there's something about the digital space that flows the competitive juices of people with nothing better to do. One hundred thousand-plus have watched the YouTube clips and interacted with the blog, not bad at all from a standing start.

So now for the big reveal – today Dan's sponsor is unveiled and the real marketing story is told. The whole scam is a ruse by white goods giant Electrolux, which has been gnawing away at the problem of how to switch on young male consumers. And if you've had your eye on that £700 prize, I can reveal that you might have won... da, da... a tumble dryer.

Well, it might not quite be what the boys had in mind, but for an extremely dull brand category that could easily be forgiven for churning out endless forgettable price-led press ads, Electrolux has jumped into the digital deep end. The 100,000 people who've engaged with Dan Fielding might not sound like much (one ad in The Sun would reach more than 3 million), but this is all about experiments and relationships. And apparently there's not an ad agency in sight.

According to Ulrich Gartner, European head of communications at Electrolux, it's all about talking to twenty-something men in a new, more engaging way. And he's confident they want to hear this stuff from another bloke.

You've got to hand it to Electrolux for having the (liquid) balls to do something daft – it's not easy to turn men on to domestic appliances, and there are so many other, more obvious routes. If they're really serious – and brave – Electrolux must surely now turn the domestic god into an ad-funded TV series and make Fielding a real star.

My only frustration with the whole Dan Fielding idea is that I'm getting a little tired already of these mock-real characters using YouTube and MySpace to create a new, digital generation of brand icon. Now that a tumble dryer has done it, it's surely time for the cool brands to move on.

Joan Collins, Westlife, Wendy Richard, Ray Mears, Keith Harris and Orville... and that's just the Post Office. 'Tis the season for a marketing push, and advertisers are getting into a feverish rush in the battle for real celebrities. Look out for the Spice Girls for Tesco (at £1m a pop), Take That for M&S, and Macaulay Culkin for Orange. Celebrities in ads live on.

Yet, a new study by the website Mumsnet, for Marketing magazine, suggests that the "celebrity sells" cliché has had its run. Almost half of mums said they would be less likely to buy a product if it was being peddled by a star. And god forbid, poor advertiser, if you've signed up a Beckham for your brand: we like them least.

Of course, you expect a bit of star dust in the tinsel of Christmas campaigns, but the worst celebrity junkies at the moment are the supermarket chains, all OD-ing on star names: Denise Van Outen for Morrisons, Kerry Katona for Iceland, and Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury's; Tesco and Asda are battling it out with the entire Equity membership list.

Mind you, if you look at the statistics, there are actually fewer celebrities in ads these days. Five years ago, just under 20 per cent of ads had "stars" in them; now it's more like 5 per cent. The disconnect comes because it tends to be the biggest advertisers with the biggest budgets that throw dosh at a star turn and then show the ads incessantly.

Take the supermarkets again. Think about how often you see ads for Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda. Between them, the nation's supermarket chains spend £260m on advertising every year, so the chances are that will you see several every week; for mums at home, it might be several every day. Making this commercial wallpaper loud enough to have an impact, week in, week out, in what is possibly the most ferocious retail market, is one of advertising's biggest challenges. Using celebs makes an instant connection.

Finally, proof that politics can be fun. Did you see last week's press ad for the Tories announcing that "Today has been cancelled"? It's by Euro RSCG, which regular readers will remember scooped the Conservative party's ad account just at the moment when the fortunes of Gordon Brown and David Cameron flipped and the Tories suddenly stopped being the client that no one wanted.

Playful and confident, the ad took another dig at Brown's decision not to hold an autumn general election, and gleefully roll-called Labour's weak spots. If this is any sign of what's to come when a real election is called, we can look forward to political campaigns being entertainingly fought on an advertising battleground. Time for a Labour salvo I think.

Beale's best in show: stella artois (lowe london)

A new Stella Artois ad used to be anticipated with much dribbling by adland's creative community. Good, old-fashioned, budget-stretching blockbusters, they were advertising creativity at its lushest.

Then its parent company, InBev, had a marketing rethink, and pulled Stella Artois back under an advertising umbrella that also shelters Artois Bock and Peeterman Artois.

One result of this new approach is a spanking website; another is this new TV campaign for the Artois family. It's by Lowe London, the agency behind the stellar Stella oeuvre, and is set in that golden-tinged rural France of a bygone era that Stella has made its own.

The tagline is "Pass on something good". The villagers, gathered in the glow of the local pub, help each other out with little favours, spreading a tenderness around the room and echoing the "generations of care handed down in every glass".

It's warm and lovingly shot, but strip away all the resonance of past ads and it looks rather small compared to them. No doubt the new strategy will work well and prove more cost-efficient than the old; but adland will be all the poorer without the big Stella blockbuster.

Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas