Dammit. Day Three and the Olympic Torch has died. But don’t worry – even though the Eternal Flame expired twenty miles into its nationwide tour, a handy back-up lighter came to the rescue and changed our perception of eternity for the second time in minutes.
And that’s every adman’s dream: an elastic definition. If eternity is now a stop-start process – the ultimate in re-launches – any claim can be justified. Pass on the torch!
For example, take an offer based on not-quite-eternity: the Lifetime Guarantee. So, what if a customer’s Acme Trouser Press conks out after a month? How does the poor advertiser get out of that one? Try this: “I’m afraid it’s come to the end of its life, sir. We guaranteed it while it was alive. Can’t do anything now.”
And how about ‘Satisfaction or your money back’? Here’s the flexible-definition answer: “We’re terribly sorry you’re not satisfied, Madame. We’d love to recompense you but you didn’t send us any actual notes or coins. The only thing we can return is real, you know, money.”
Then there’s ‘Two for the price of one’. Let’s stretch that definition. “Yes, Madame – two packets of fish fingers for the price of one jar of Beluga caviar.”
‘Delivery in seven to ten days’ ? “Yes, we did promise that, sir. But we didn’t say which seven to ten days. It’s seven to ten Thursdays, in fact. Two to three months, I’d say.”
‘New and improved.’ “What do you mean, it’s no better? It’s more expensive, isn’t it? We think that’s better.”
‘Home made.’ “Well, our workers do practically live in the factory.”
Liberating, isn’t it? I feel a campaign coming on.
We’re building on tradition here, of course. Adland’s history is replete with early versions of the elastic definition. ‘Sale must end tomorrow’ comes swiftly to mind. (“Oh, you mean that sale? No, this one is this sale.”) I’ll bet that’s where they got the Eternal Flame idea in the first place.
‘As seen on TV’. “What – you weren’t watching at 3 am last Tuesday?”
‘Nobody does it better.’ “OK – our competitors do exactly the same as us.”
Sometimes the definition changes though the product itself doesn’t. I was once briefed to write an ad for a snazzy diver’s watch. As I read through the spec I couldn’t find any mention of ‘waterproof’. I rang the client with my discovery, ready to admit defeat. “That’s OK,” he said. “Call it a sportsman’s watch.” Elasticity in action, Olympic gymnast-style.
Until this week I’ve never I been able to come to terms with the concept of time everlasting. But thanks to Coe & Co I’ve got it now. Eternity is a lot of temporalities strung together. Think of a chain smoker lighting up a new fag with the embers of the previous one. It’s a new kind of relay event.
Now hand over that torch. I’ve got an ad to write.
Top image composed using shots © Annfoto | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos and © Redbaron| Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos Coins shot © Miszaqq| Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos Diver shot © Fotol| Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos