Irritating ads 2010: Memorable for the wrong reason

As Gocompare is crowned the most irritating ad for the second year running, Nicola Clark asks whether being irksome is an effective strategy, or simply a case of lazy marketing.

The past 12 months have been characterised by change: Prince William is officially off the market and Britain has the first coalition government since 1945. But it seems - in the world of advertising at least - that some things stay the same. Gocompare.com has been named by consumers as the most-irritating ad for the second year running in Marketing's annual poll.

Despite fierce competition from Webuyanycar.com, which came in second with 48% of the vote, and another stalwart of the Irritating Ads table, Injurylawyers4U.co.uk, finishing third, the brand managed to maintain its crown as the provider of the country's most irksome advertising.

In fact, over the past 12 months, Gocompare's rotund opera singer has succeeded in making himself and his ads more irritating to consumers. In 2009, 56% rated the brand maddening. Fast-forward to 2010, and 59% of those surveyed found themselves annoyed by brand character Gio Compario's operatic overtures.

Awareness campaign

Nonetheless, Nick Hall, marketing director at Gocompare, says the campaign has been a phenomenal success. 'The strategy and objective of the campaign is to raise awareness of the Gocompare brand and ensure that it's front of mind, and we have certainly achieved that.'

While Marketing's poll has revealed that many consumers are irritated by the ad, Hall claims there is also a great deal of warmth toward Gio Compario and the Gocompare brand. 'It is so much bigger than an ad now,' he enthuses. Not only has the singer netted a record deal, but he has also released a Christmas single in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

When asked whether he has any plans to kill off Gio Compario, Hall is unequivocal in his response. 'He is completely part of the brand now - like the Smash Martians, the OXO Mum or Honey Monster. He has the potential to run and run as a character.'

Nick Fox, chief client officer at DDB, says that Gocompare 'is edging toward the Ferrero Rocher brand when it comes to self-awareness, and in that sense the campaign is probably working very well'.

Many of the brands in the chart seem to adhere to the Alan Sugar-style of marketing, with a strong focus on mentioning the brand as much as possible in the ad. In the case of Webuyanycar.com, this extends to simply repeating the name as a jingle, so that the brand has, in effect, become the strapline.

Total recall

The strategy for some brands at the top of the table appears to be recall at any cost. 'Most of the brands you lump into that category are insurance and financial-service products,' says Tom Huxtable, managing director of brand communications agency 23red. 'These categories are so commoditised they often feel they need to ram the message down people's throats.'

Inevitably, such a strategy creates potential problems for marketers. 'I would be concerned about the future of these brands,' says Huxtable. 'You may say that the brand's share of voice is up, but I would focus more on sales and whether they will be sustained.'

This year's poll also suggests the public's growing apathy toward celebrities in advertising. D-listers made a number of appearances in the list, with former Bill actor Billy Murray scoring for Injurylawyers4U, Dale Winton for Cashmygold.co.uk and X-Factor also-rans Jedward doing a sterling job of irritating consumers while playing on their Nintendo games consoles. Even the nation's sweetheart, Cheryl Cole, showed signs of slipping in the public affection, coming in equal 10th for swishing her mane of glossy hair and extensions for L'Oreal Elvive.

Some may argue that the standard of advertising is falling and the number of big brands, such as Halifax, Microsoft and L'Oreal, in the top 10 is symptomatic of a wider creative malaise. However, many marketers believe anything is better than being a 'vanilla' brand that fails to elicit any response at all from consumers. While no marketer sets out to actively irritate, consumer recall is vital. To quote a line from Mad Men, the cult US drama about an ad agency: 'It doesn't matter if you love it or hate it, we have been sitting here talking about it for five minutes.'

WHICH COMMERCIALS IRRITATED YOU MOST IN THE PAST YEAR?
Rank Brand Agency %
1 Gocompare.com In-house 59
2 Webuyanycar.com In-house 48
3 Injurylawyers4U.co.uk The Gate Films 42
4 Cashmygold.co.uk In-house 36
5 Halifax DLKW Lowe 35
6 Foxy Bingo Biscuit 31
7 Nintendo Karmarama 29
8 Moonpig.com Wordley Production 28
9 Moneysupermarket.com MCBD 26
10= Microsoft Windows 7 Crispin Porter & Bogusky 24
10= L'Oreal Elvive McCann Erickson 24
12= Danone Activia RKCR/Y&R 21
12= Iceland Beta 21
14= Funkypigeon.com DLKW Lowe 20
14= Confused.com (Cara) Hornet Inc 20
15 Confused.com (Haunted Jeans) Beattie McGuinness Bungay 19
16 Pantene Pro-V (Aqua Light) Grey London 16
18 BT Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO 13
19 Marks & Spencer RKCR/Y&R 12
20 Giovanni Rana Leagas Delaney 11
Adwatch fieldwork: 2-6 December 2010 by TNS Prompted interviews took
place via the internet. Sample of 1011 British adults aged 16-64 were
interviewed. For further information contact sue.homeyard@tns-ri.co.uk

WHAT YOU SAID ...

We asked @MarketingUK's Twitter followers to tell us what they thought were the most irritating ads of 2010. Here is a selection of their tweets:

@JunkkMale - The Boots ones with women who exist solely to xchange unwrapped 1-up tat every lunchtime #naffads

@clarecollings - It's got to be webuyanycar.com webuyanycar.com webuyanycar.com. Why so many repeats? WE GET IT!

@Nicky_Savage - No doubt it's those 'Im a knob & I invented Windows 7' ads

@dickydrink - Match.com. What sort of numpties tie their shoelaces together in a shop ... what are the chances???

@matthopson - Any & all ads that start 'Have you had a trip or fall at work ... '.

@Paul_G_Kelly - The Halifax 'we are so human' ice ice baby etc ads! Chase them into the sea! With a stick!

@chrisultralife - Has to be the gocompare adverts closely followed by wonga.com & the Virgin Media ad with speedy gonzales. Muchos irritating.

@andymarkpeel - Technically whoever wins most irritating ad of the year has succeeded in advertising. Especially if it's about brand awareness.

@kerrymeehan - Yeo Valley - because milk will never be ghetto.

@GillDaines - The Iceland party ads pre Christmas are the kind that make you want to stay in on your own and go to no parties!

@matthopson - Any & all ads thats start 'Have you had a trip or fall at work ... '.

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