Argos: The retail chain's Christmas ad campaign is well-branded, but lacks creative ideas

A family of blue aliens landed on our planet last year, and, to their great credit, has been tirelessly promoting Argos ever since.

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I picked this ad because it offers an opportunity to discuss the merits of creative idea vs creative vehicle.

That, and because I have always loved aliens - 2001: A Space Odyssey. Star Wars. Argos. This should be right up my street.

In the Argos aliens' first outing last year, there was the smallest hint of a creative idea. While there was never the suggestion that they had travelled light years just for the shopping, these beings were unmistakably taken with this strange shop called Argos.

The idea hinged on them being fish out of water; new to earth, they represented the wisdom of innocents looking at people's strange behaviour with fresh and disbelieving eyes, because they saw Argos as the only sensible Earthly solution, at least when it came to shopping. Viewed this way, they were close cousins of the Smash Martians, bemused and amused by the foibles of us humans.

However, this idea played second fiddle to the aliens being a simple and flexible creative vehicle. This is particularly true in the current Christmas ad. There is not an idea, so much as a flexible branding device well-suited to delivering a range of messages.

Played this way, the aliens are in fact very un-alien. They are fish in water, behaving like a typical Argos shopper. Why are they aliens? Well, why not?

To my mind, even if an overall creative strategy and idea is viewed as being superfluous (which I would question), surely there is scope to use the family's alien-ness to greater comic and dramatic effect?

These aliens seem to have settled on Earth rather too well. In fact, if you look away from the TV, there is no hint that these are aliens at all. They have no alien quirks. No strange food requirements, shopping idiosyncrasies, funny handshakes or homesickness.

Clearly the aliens love Argos, and good on them, but I'm also dying to hear at least a little bit about their near-miss with a black hole.

Nowhere is this more evident than when the dad alien is thrilled with a nose trimmer he's bought for his wife's aunt. Now, presuming the aunt is also an alien - and I think I'm on pretty safe ground here - she will not have a nose. Not even a nostril.

In communicating Argos' excellent deal on nose trimmers, it seems even the script-writer has forgotten they are aliens.

So, this is my issue. The creative potential around this being a family of aliens seems to have been sidelined.

Will it work? Quite possibly. It is distinctive, well-branded, and can seamlessly carry several disparate messages. However, for the moment at least, it represents an opportunity missed.

Brand strategy verdict: 4 out of 10

How can a campaign featuring aliens also be slice-of-life advertising at its most ordinary? Beats me.

table headerAdwatch (Dec 5) Top 20 recall: Argos
Latest rank December 5 Brand Agency/TV Buyer   Recall
           
1 (10=) Argos 

CHI&Partners/

Mindshare

  62
2 (-) EE 

Saatchi & Saatchi/

MEC

  60
3 (-) Littlewoods 

St Luke's/

Carat

  50
4 (-) Apple iPad Mini 

TBWA\

Media Arts Lab

  45
5= (17=) Tesco 

Wieden & Kennedy/

Initiative

  44
5= (-) Very.co.uk 

St Luke's/

Carat

  44
7 (2) DFS 

Krow/

MediaCom

  43
8 (-) eBay 

TribalDDB/

Carat

  42
9 (-) Febreze 

Grey Dusseldorf/

Starcom

  41
10= (1) McDonald's 

Leo Burnett/

OMD UK

  37
10= (-) Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader 

Mullen/

Initative

  37
12= (17=) National Lottery 

Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO/

OMD UK

  36
12= (-) Asda 

Saatchi & Saatchi/

Carat

  36
14 (-) Dyson Hot 

In-house4/

PHD

  33
15 (-) Waitrose 

Bartle Bogle Hegarty/

Manning Gottlieb OMD

  32
16 (5) Harveys 

HDMG/

MediaVest

  27
17 (-) Ariel 

Saatchi &Saatchi

/Starcom

  26
18= (7) Curry's/PC World 

M&C Saatchi/

Walker Media

  24
18= (-) Gillette Fusion 

BBDO/New York/

Mediavest

  24
20 (-) The Co-operative 

Leo Burnett/

PHD Rocket

  22

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