We so very rarely see quirky or 'marmite' video creative where brands are perceived to be taking a risk.

That's especially true in the holiday period, when most brands tend to sprinkle some glitter over their ad campaigns, or add some warm humour (daft at a push, e.g. Lidl).

This is partly why Robert Dyas' new commercial has made such a big impact, with more than 400,000 YouTube views in its first weekend.

The advert has been hailed as confusing by some, so I thought I'd ask a few pertinent questions.

Firstly, here's the vid, in case you haven't yet had the pleasure...

Is this the extent of the 'campaign?'

There's something very British about a retailer that many think of as a small business (including its owner, Theo Paphitis) deciding to 'go for it' and attempt 'viral' marketing.

Christmas 2014 saw Robert Dyas spend £1m on a very traditional, if polished, campaign (see the ad below).

Perhaps the cost of such generic work (the 2014 ad has garnered only 871 views on YouTube) was seen as unjustified this year?

Robert Dyas is a homeware retailer that sells a diverse range of products and, as such, has a large number of notional competitors. That's why brand awareness is very important for Paphitis' brand.

Such a successful video (trending on Twitter for more than five hours on the weekend of launch) will increase this brand awareness and is also likely to increase footfall as more passing trade smiles wryly and decides to have a look around.

In short, this is likely the extent of Robert Dyas' Christmas campaign, and it's an inspired (and cheap) roll of the dice.

Is it offensive?

This is a question I was asking myself as I watched the video, and it's a dynamic that, in part, explains why the video is so intriguing.

The answer, I think, is no, but there has been some dissent on Twitter.

I did, however, Google whether the word 'straight' could be seen as offensive. It also seems to me that this ad isn't as straightforward as the original Red House commercial (see below).

Both ads are intended to be absurd - why would race or sexuality be important? - however, sexuality is essentially a 'hidden' characteristic and so we have to take the employees' and customer's word on their sexuality.

If it were to emerge that the actors were not gay or bi, would that seem exploitative?

I don't know, I'm just voicing what some are thinking. It's also true that the comic timing and performance of the Robert Dyas actors doesn't quite match that displayed in the Red House ad (partly due to the punctuation of Rhett & Link bursting into song) - a minor consideration but one which affects whether people see it as funny, weird or offensive.

Will we see a backlash?

At the moment, as many YouTube viewers have disliked the video as have liked it. This might show just what a successful advert it is.

A lot of the commenters are making childish, absurd or offensive comments regarding sexuality and this is one angle Robert Dyas might have expected, and may draw some criticism over.

However, this is a fait accompli of viral videos; once they're in the wild, you have little control over reaction.

Who is responsible?

Is there an agency involved, but more importantly, who was the Robert Dyas CMO (or higher) that signed this off? I think we all want to salute them for their bravery.

Paphitis is well known for advocating a modern marketing mix (including lauching his underwear company, Boux Avenue via Twitter), but this represents a step further for the business.

How will Robert Dyas follow this?

Will this be an annual event? It certainly feels like it could be an antidote to the mega-bucks campaigns of John Lewis (which certainly has a product cross-over).

We can only hope. 

Ben Davis

Published 14 December, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

This article is a treat for a gay marketer, or a straight one.

Massive respect to whoever thought of this campaign, and equal respect to whoever signed it off. It's great to see a traditional brand take some risks for a change. For the first time pretty much ever, people are talking about a hardware store. That's awesome.

over 2 years ago

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