A Better Course

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I’m On The Train

September 22nd, 2007 · No Comments

One of the conventions of Tube advertising – either in trains or on the platforms – is that there can be large volumes of densely written text about your product or service because the people who are looking at your advert at all (the ones who aren’t reading) have quite a lot of time and nothing better to do.

Nintendo’s recent tube campaigns have done this well. The headline refers to what you can do in a DS game and the train on which you might do that – the Phoenix Wright advert’s headline is “Solve A Mystery On The 8:15 To Paddington”. The text underneath varies slightly for each game, but it always starts in the same way; you’re commuting, you’re typically going to spend three years of your life doing that, how about spending the time better? It’s not as patronising as that sounds, but rather some fairly well-reasoned text about a possible problem and one of a series of possible solutions, all of which are available on the DS.

Nokia, it seems, are also trying to take advantage of their viewer’s location in their current Tube posters. The headline is “Expand Your Tube Vocabulary”; after this (on the advert I saw yesterday, which I assume is one of a series) is the phrase “excuse me” followed by a variety of pronunciations of “excuse me”. The bottom right hand corner encourages the viewer to “be more nokia”.

These are two adverts that are doing ostensibly very similar things – using the (potential) consumer’s location as a starting point for pointing out the advantages of a piece of hardware, the use of which could make that location better. However, there’s a significant difference between the two that makes Nintendo’s successful and Nokia’s far less so; the former is speaking to the location, where the latter is speaking about the location.

The point of the Nokia advert – even without the large volumes of text – is quite clear. This device is for talking to people, if people talked to each other on the Tube (to the extent of basic politeness) it would be a better place, therefore this device makes the world a better place and you a better person. But the link doesn’t quite work – there’s nothing this bit of hardware can do to make the journey right then better. Commuting would certainly be more pleasant with more politeness and less shoving (so the advert is technically correct about the reader’s location) but that is a far from compelling reason to buy a particular brand of handset.

Nintendo, by contrast, are speaking to a need that exists at the point the advert is being read – are you sure you want to be spacing out like this? do you really want to read adverts for half an hour every time you finish a book mid-commute? If you had a DS right now, you’d probably be having more fun.

Of course, these companies exist in very different spheres. Nokia are in a market that is both saturated and extremely competitive, whereas Nintendo are currently doing extremely well at reaching a largely untapped market for their products. Part of this has been about meeting its potential customers where they are in terms of the hardware they make, as well as their advertising. Proving that you know your customer’s needs and proving you can meet them are very different things; it would be good to see more thought put into the latter in location-based advertising.

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