• John Lewis ad parodies

Have John Lewis and Aldi proved the parodies are mightier than the ad?

08 December 2015

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

By that logic, John Lewis must be going red in the cheeks from the sheer number of parodies people have made of their latest big budget Christmas ad.

Even Aldi have joined in with the mick-takery with an amusing, slightly bizarre ad spot.

In a way, it is flattering; it should be taken as a form of validation for a brand that has become synonymous with emotional, heart-warming holiday adverts.

Putting questions of exactly when Aldi started stocking high-powered telescopes to one side, the reception from the Man on the Moon campaign makes us wonder:

Do parodies of your advert actually provide more free publicity for your brand?

It sounds mad. How could someone poking fun at your shiny new ad possibly help you? Surely they only serve to undermine your carefully crafted message?

Yes and no.

While it might sound like a part-time PR yuppie shouting across the bar that ‘all publicity is good publicity’, there’s some rationale behind making something so iconic that others take on your idea and build on it.

Look at last year’s Lincoln Motor Company ad, aka drive-time philosophy hour with Matthew McConaughey.

Most of the US jumped on this, with spoofs doing the rounds on Saturday Night Live, Ellen deGeneres, and even South Park. Even the original ad felt like it was a self-aware parody of itself.

Thing is, Lincoln announced sales had increased 25 per cent in October 2014, shortly after the ads rolled out.

Easy target for mockery? Sure.

More exposure for the brand? Absolutely.

When prime time late night shows like SNL are using your brand, you’re almost guaranteed a wider reach.

Protein World’s beach body billboard was widely vilified and openly mocked by many.

Carlsberg responded brilliantly, as did Simply Be and Lastminute.com. Even an unofficial Dove parody was made.

However, the campaign also made money.

Within four days, Protein World had reportedly made £1 million back in sales.

Not just encouraging parody, but courting controversy on a whole new level.

Whether it was an intentional move or misjudged completely, the result of the added exposure is pretty clear.

Beach-Body-Ready-Strawman-parody “I’m ready. If only I was allowed on the beach.”

However, intentionally courting parody in the hope of catching a viral upsurge is a dangerous game.

You are literally gambling with a brand’s credibility.

When others are quick to jump on any flawed campaign, why risk poking the sleeping bear?

In today’s online landscape, spoofs have become a barometer of when advertising gets a bit too ridiculous, or takes itself too seriously.

It’s a nice regulator to stop advertisers from becoming too self-indulgent, or too off-message.

Which is good.

The point of an ad is to sell more product, so when an ad loses touch with the audience that would buy said product, it’s nice to know it will get a slice of humble pie thrown its way.

For ads like John Lewis, sure, imitation serves to flatter.

But for an ad that cost £1 million and seven months of planning, the last thing they want is for others to pick it apart- or worse, do a similar job for less than £700.

No matter the extra publicity it affords.

When it comes to openly parodying other brands, it can work, and Aldi showed us a great example of a one-off shot at this – even if they couldn’t quite knock the Man on the Moon off the top spot.

But we wouldn’t build an entire campaign around directly attacking your competitors- do it too much, and customers will wonder why you’re shooting down rivals, instead of touting your own brand’s benefits.

Aldi succeeded because they’re a challenger brand who have been focusing on their price advantage in a fairly cheeky way.

But as always, you’ll have to look at the reasons for doing a parody in the first place.

If the only reason is that you can’t find enough positives about your own brand, then you should probably start again.

Alternatively, if you’re not trying to take yourself too seriously, you can always take a leaf out of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s book.