Walkers has taken its eye off the ball with its Messi campaign

John Webster wrote the first Lineker ad, writes Anna Carpen, creative director at 18 Feet & Rising. That's why I know it was about Gary being the nicest guy in football. And it was funny seeing him steal crisps.

Twenty-one years on, it’s still rocking Adwatch. The adstock must be phenomenal. A fraction of the media money of other snack brands – or any brand, for that matter.

The two single shots of the crisp being eaten (just like the first ad back then) surely mean a great job is being done against irresistibility. It’s two famous footballers; one for the older audience, one for the new.

This is what we do. It’s what advertising does well. It creates unfair advantage through brand consistency and a long-term outlook. Great job. Right?

Why am I worried? Like, green-bile worried? Deep-green-bile worried? I think it’s because all this sensible behaviour is just a fraction of what’s possible with this brand and the incredible array of opportunities out there.

I get it. I think it has to do with how we decide our own success. The other way round it looks scary.

A broken model

Marketing is the last thought on a business’ mind when it shouldn’t be. The models are broken left, right and centre. If you’ve got something, hold on – tight. But I don’t hear people talking about Walkers. Ever. With this kind of campaign, people should be begging for the next one. Lineker isn’t a ‘nice guy’ any more. And why doesn’t anyone buy enough crisps for people in these ads? Sure, we need to be mindful of obesity rules, but on foosball-and-Champions League day, you want bowls and bowls of crisps. That’s what connects.

When you level with your audience, as the first ad did, amazing things happen. I’m troubled because it’s the advertising industry itself at its worst – scared of its own shadow and to reinvent itself. More than that: scared to connect with its audience. This is advertising where people say: "Thanks, got it, you haven’t troubled me, Walkers crisps do taste great."

So I’m worried that, for such a great brand, this is so retrospective. I’m worried the missed opportunity is massive. I’m worried that this is what Pringles does. Who agrees that one of the most inventive FMCG brands is underselling itself?

With Thanks To

Adwatch prompted advertising-awareness research was conducted by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact emma.dolby@tnsglobal.com (020 7656 5890). Ads were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and MEC (020 7803 2000).

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