When Dual Advertising Makes You Scratch Your Head in Wonder

The other day, the girlfriend bought InStyle magazine for the Taylor Swift article. Long story short, she decided to flip through the entire thing with an eye to creating a blog post about the ads. Well, today I’ve stolen her idea in order to write about one ad in particular.

Dual advertising has been around since day dot, especially in the entertainment industry. How else could studios get their films in magazines and extend the brand beyond the cinema? Espousing a product’s connections to a film or vice-versa is a well worn marketing gimmick that has been proven to work time and time again.

While toys are perhaps the most obvious choice, there have been plenty of example in live-action too. The James Bond films are great examples, he drives an Aston Martin, wears an Omega watch and drinks only Martini.

So without further adieu, let’s have a look at today’s subject:

Warning, large image (c. 1.4MB)

Yes, it’s not an animated film but that’s OK, it’s put out by a studio who used to (and to a certain extent still do) make their bread and butter from animation. Just sit and study it for a minute (you can click through for the full-size version).

Here we have an advertisement that is for O.P.I. Nail Lacquer that has something in it to make the polish appear cracked or worn. Fair enough, but what is that at the top of the page? Why it’s the logo for the Pirates of the Caribbean set of movies that [gasp] is in theaters right now!

Right, so, the ad attempts to tie the pirate movie with the cracked nail polish. Fair enough. I don’t see much of a connection between the two anyway, so how does the ad accomplish this task? By putting a mermaid in there!

Now when you think of Disney + Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean is not the first film to pop into my head. While there may be mermaids in the latest installment, that’s certainly news to me. Although to be fair, they have thrown in a pirate ship in the background for good measure, even though it’s just sitting there doing nothing.

Secondly, the tag is “Nail color you’re sure to TREASURE!” OK, but again, why do you say that when all there is in the background is a boat and a mermaid? When I think of treasure I think of a chest of gold, no? Ostensibly the “treasure” connection is supposed to be upheld by the already implied connection to “pirates”. However, visually, there is nothing to reinforce it and as a result, the tagline seems wholly inappropriate to the setting.

Lastly we have the only truly obvious connection to pirates:

(apologies for the poor scan, apparently magazines are tricky when it comes to that)

Gut-wrenching pun aside, it is buried down in the bottom right corner of the ad, where you have to have read the rest of the ad before you get to it.

All in all, this is the kind of dual-branding advertisement that makes you wonder how on earth these two came together. Sadly , it seems that it has a marketing department stamp all over it. No thought seems to have been given to the context of the product or the film. Yes, a pirate film is hard to sell, but that should not mean throwing all sensibility to the wind, right?

I mean, nail polish? No-one outside of an ad agency or marketing department desperate to share ad costs would even consider putting the two together. It’s not a particularly dumb move, but it doesn’t exactly shine with inspiration either.

Smart tie-ins can greatly improve a film’s commercial health and can provide a positive association between the product and the film. Done well it can bring in millions for both parties, but done poorly, it can leave each looking desperate and foolish.