Even if the day comes when the internet gets wired directly into our brains, anybody who can write a great radio spot will probably have a job somewhere in this business.
I love radio. And starting today, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite radio campaigns here on heywhipple. com. Let’s start with the famous campaign that London’s Leagas Delaney did for Phillips Electronics (TVs and VCRs). The work is now some 25 years old, but the spots still kill me to this day. I have included a few of them here for your review. (Go to the tabs at top or side, labeled Radio Campaign of the Week.)
Listen first to the spot called “Phirrips.” (And if you’re wondering, my answer is no, I don’t care that it’s politically incorrect. It’s funny.) Back in ’99, London’s Campaign magazine named ”Phirrips” the Best Radio Spot of All Time.
In this spot, an idiot walks into a store insisting on Japanese technology and the salesperson makes fun of him. (Would any client anywhere do this today? I hope you’re out there.) From there, the campaign marches off in all directions.
• Two idiots talk about Phillips in fake and fractured French.
• Two idiots accuse Phillips of being a faceless corporation pushing their products on a helpless public.
• A salesperson beats around the bush about how expensive a Phillips TV is.
• Two burglars announce they’re stealing Phillips TVs exclusively.
• Two Phillips spokesmen peal with evil laughter at their competitors’ sinking sales.
• Two guys talk about Phillips products for sixty seconds, never once mentioning what the brand is or the product is.
• An idiot tells a customer not to buy a Phillips VCR because all electronics will be obsolete within 2 weeks.
• And in the spot called “You’re So Clever,” the two idiots go on and on about … God, I can’t begin to explain how stupid and cool this last spot is.
If there’s a concept behind the spots listed here, well, I don’t see it. Listen to them and you may agree there’s no campaign superstructure; no “big idea” such as, say, Bud’s “Real American Heroes.” Still if you listen to the spots one after another, their common lineage is apparent.
If they have any “platform,” I guess I’d call it the ol’ Two Guys Being Funny gig. Yes, there’s a common sign-off treatment; and the voiceovers are similar. Other than that, all that’s going on here is two guys being funny; not so much a concept as it is an executional architecture, right? Yet because of the consistent brilliance of the writing and the extraordinary comic timing of the actors (Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith), these one-off’s are indeed very much a campaign.
I have this theory about radio, one I’m pretty sure no one will buy. Because the idea runs counter to everything I’ve learned about how advertising works in every other medium. It’s the idea that radio may be the only medium where one-shots aren’t such a bad idea. I know, I know, branding heresy. I mean, who’d suggest stringing together a bunch of one-off print ads and calling it a campaign?
Yet in radio, I have no problem simply doing the funniest or most interesting damn thing I can, “campaign structure” be damned. Yes, when you’re brilliant enough to create a campaign with a portable reusable structure like “Real American Heroes,” by all means go for it. But to insist that every radio campaign have this same sort of repeatable campaign structure, I could argue that’s a case of good getting in the way of great.
I’m probably wrong about this but I have to tell you, not only do I love this Phillips stuff, the best radio campaign I think I ever wrote worked pretty much the same way — a bunch of one shots that all hammered home the same one or two key points. I’ll post that campaign soon. When I do, you may think I’m kidding myself about this or you may just think they suck.
Yet in spite of my misgivings about this heresy, I stand by this thought.
Radio is just … different.