Unsound strategy that will crash on Jamster

With over 1,200 complaints lodged (when last counted) at the Advertising Standards Authority, Jamster’s Crazy Frog is fast heading for the unenviable accolade of most unpopular advertising campaign.

The complaints are no doubt heartfelt, but misguided all the same. It is no part of the ASA’s remit to adjudicate on the excessive frequency with which the ugly amphibian appears on our screens, and that is what the vast majority of complainants seem unhappy about. Instead, the ASA will content itself with an investigation into whether the ads mislead children, necessarily a highly important target in the ringtone market, over the true cost of a download.

We should not hold our breath for the conclusions of this inquiry. It sounds a bit of a cop-out, and probably is. But then, to what other authority should the complainants address themselves if they want an ASBO slapped on the delinquent amphibian? Ofcom would direct them to the individual broadcasters who carry the ads. They, in turn, have taken refuge in embarrassed silence, as indeed has Mediacom, which devised and bought the disruptive campaign for Jamster.

They know that the Frog campaign represents a new low in television advertising standards but are only too happy to take the money. Of course, times are hard in commercial television (hadn’t we heard?) and then there’s consolation in the observation that, if we think this example of DRTV plumbs new depths, there’s much worse to come in the evolving world of multichannel television. However, a price may be paid for this complacent cynicism.

Judged even on his own terms, the frog is a flawed character, with the seeds of his destruction sown within him. He is a one-hit wonder, a construct of craze marketing rather than a long-term branding property.

The difference may be seen by contrasting him with the campaign that launched directory enquiries service 118 118. Although the Runners developed a consdierable cult following around their retro hairstyles, they served as a memorable branding device that propelled 118 118 to market leadership within a fairly short time. Crazy Frog, by contrast, is built on diminishing returns. First, in the literal sense that the saturation media strategy – which is in any case highly wasteful – involves moving up a gradient from relatively inexpensive minor channels to peak time on terrestrial television. And secondly, because it causes a degree of annoyance prejudicial to the longer-term interests of Jamster itself. It is not merely a question of alienating people who were never a part of the target market anyway. The Frog campaign has had the unintended consequence of upsetting the ringtone market, which fears being given a bad name and is calling for more transparent pricing. Not only that, it has also alerted previously naive parents to the comparatively large sums of money their children are being induced to part with. This cannot be good news for Sweety the Chick and Nessie the Dragon, or any other expendable vehicles Jamster should choose to peddle its wares.

Mostly, however, the Frog phenomenon serves to convince an already suspicious public that this is what marketing really amounts to: all sizzle and no sausage.

Stuart Smith, Editor

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