Advertising Strategy / Opinion

5 advertising and design rules Skegness smashes (and how you can avoid them entirely)

[NOW UPDATED 14:00 15/June]

Let’s be honest – recent advertising efforts to promote Skegness fail dismally.  In fact, I struggle to believe how ANY tourism marketing or advertising people got it this wrong.

But, thankfully for all of us who want to learn something new every day, they have.

Here are the top 5 reasons why the resort’s attempts at advertising itself suck.

Let me preface this piece by saying (dear East Lindsey Council members) that I am available for any rebranding projects which you might wish to open up.  I’ve got a whole host of ideas that I’d be delighted to discuss with you. There, sales pitch over (contact me any way you please)

And, for my international readers, you might appreciate a bit of background about Skeggie which is generally acknowledged to be one of the crappest places in Britain (rightly, or wrongly. Never visited myself).

Anyway, on with the show, starting with the offending advertisements themselves (via a screengrab from the Daily Mail)

Wow.  It’s hard to know where to begin…

Let me outline some of the Golden Rules that these adverts break.

Rule 1) Never, ever, under any circumstances, advertise yourself in comparison to a competitor.

If the best you have is the fact that you’re not somewhere else, you really haven’t got anything to be proud of.

End of story.

Rule 1.1) If you HAVE to advertise yourself in this way, at least make it clear where your comparison lies.

Looking at these posters, it’s not clear where the images are taken.  I live near Brighton (the left hand image) and didn’t recognise it.  I would never have known that the other image was Blackpool.

In fact, on first glance, I thought that these were posters promoting another edition of the Crap Towns books.

Therefore, the images are completely self-defeating.

Rule 1.2) If you REALLY really want to advertise yourself referencing what you’re not, copy VW.

Their ‘Sounds Like A Golf’ advert is a brilliant demonstration of what you can positively achieve for the brand, while hammering other competitors away.

Rule 2) Remember how the viewer will read your advert

I’m a Z reader – so I read adverts like this:

Notice how late I hit “Visit Skegness”.

After the headline.

After the image.

After the bottom text.

After the logo.

I’ll wager that many viewers read ads in this way – after all, it’s an efficient scanning mechanism to see if we can be bothered to go back to the top and read further.

As my eyes go from the start, the main thing I’m left with is the graffiti and the headline which nullify the desire to go for passes three and four.

Opportunity lost.

Rule 3) Get your messaging right.

Disregarding the above point for the moment, what’s the poster about?

Sights you’ll want to remember? (Landscape, architecture, catwalks)

Cultural coast where art and coast come together? (Art galleries, coastal scenes, opportunities to expand the mind)

The SO Festival 23 June – 1 July? (Did you even notice that?  I know I sure as hell didn’t until the second or third viewing)

The dog’s dinner that Skegness has served up illustrates none of the above.  Failure on every count then.

Rule 4) Work out what your messaging actually is.

There’s a quote in the Daily Mail piece from a James Gilbert, who works at the Council which commissioned these.

‘We want to challenge people’s perceptions and showcase the amazing art, culture, dance, theatre and music that is staged in the town’

Well why in the name of all that’s holy (and quite a lot of stuff that isn’t) didn’t the ‘designers’ actually showcase what the resort wanted to showcase?

If you’ve got something, flaunt it.

Rule 5) Typography matters.

Hell’s teeth, whatever they’ve chosen is lame as a week old Brussels Sprout.

It was probably designed in Word.  At least, on the plus side, they didn’t have to pay any Adobe licences.

I could go on.

But for today, I won’t.

I don’t care particularly about ‘dirty tricks’.  What I care about is eradicating lazy creative (see my Piss Off Harvey Nics post), getting branding that’s right for a project and delivering something that makes a real, tangible impact on user behaviour – in this case customers risking hard earned money to try a new holiday resort instead of returning to an old favourite.

Skegness’ work is going to be a case study on how to manufacture a huge PR, advertising and branding balls-up out of something that could have been pretty positive.

What they need is someone who can come in, set the ship straight again, then apply both analytical and intuitive design thinking into the future tourism marketing for the resort.

As I said at the top of this post, Skegness, I’m yours*.


Since writing the above, I’ve been made aware of this piece from the Skegness Standard:

ELDC leader Coun Doreen Stephenson is scheduled to make numerous TV and radio appearances on national and regional outlets, to discuss the advert and promote Skegness and the SO Festival to millions of potential visitors.

Mr Gilbert added: “It’s done what we set out to do – we did it to provoke a response, we’ve provoked that response and now we are talking about SO Festival and why Skegness is so marvellous on a much larger platform that would not have been possible otherwise.”

Two thoughts occur from a PR perspective:

a) Fine, you’ve provoked a reaction.  But you’re on the defensive immediately and having to argue your way out of a hole.  This is a waste of time and energy.

b) Long term brand building isn’t done through stunts to grab attention.  Sure, you might get a couple of locals to give you a try (you’re local TV and radio coverage won’t reach me in the South East – near Brighton) this year, but what about next year?  What are you going to do then?

Spend more money on another campaign to shock people and give you a defensive PR nightmare?  Good choice is the age of austerity, Skegness, good choice…

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

The ridiculous featured image is taken from TheRogue’s Flickr Photostream and demonstrates what a lot of people would probably like to do to the ‘designers’ of these adverts.

*For a fee, of course.


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