pot noodle, adam&eveDDB, slurp


Why icky ads are sticky ads

How ads, like Pot Noodle's, achieve brand fame by being just a little bit gross

By jeremy lee

As we all know by now, sadvertising has finally run its course. It's now all about the 'funny' - this has even been officially sanctioned by Cannes Lions as a category this year. But other emotional triggers are also available to brands hoping to make an impact.

Witness for example this recent campaign by adam&eveDDB for Pot Noodle that deliberately set out to provoke a daring response: one of repulsion.

The original TV spot featured featured a woman slurping loudly from a Pot Noodle carton. Having (deliberately) provoked outrage on social media for the poor manners evident, the spot was replaced with a redubbed version and an apology.

The new ad features a more acceptable 'nom nom' sound and explanatory text saying: “Some people had adverse reactions to the slurping sounds in this ad. So it no longer contains any."

The deliberately icky ad approach has also just been adopted by the German DIY store Hornbach in this new spot by by HeimatTBWA. The ad features a man emerging from a pupae, complete with graphic and loud birthing noises, to show the commitment needed to take on garden DIY projects after a winter spent trapped inside.

The 'Every Spring, A New Beginning' ad is typical of the weird work - but memorable - work to come from the client and agency, but is undeniably icky and incredibly memorable.

But back to Pot Noodle. The accompanying press release bumpf says that in the original ad, in which the sound of the slurping noise was heightened, data was used to inform the campaign.

People who were most sensitive to the slurp were identified and then further sounds, to which they'd respond more positively, were collated. For example saxophone tutorials or F1 highlights. The agency then created more than 50 different versions of the ad, to target those most adverse to the slurp.

Martin Beverley, the CSO, and Richard Brim, the CCO, at adam&eveDDB, say that they are generally not in favour of brands grossing people out, because linking a feeling of disgust to a brand is risky business.

"However, it is riskier business to play it safe and blend in with the boring blandemic that plagues most advertising. So, in many respects, what we set out to do with Pot Noodle was the same as we set out to do with everything we work on - we want to stand out and get people to feel something​," they add.

For people with misphonia - a condition that causes intense feelings from sounds such as slurping, chewing, tapping and crying - this feeling will have been one of irritation or disgust. But the soundtrack to the ad will also have shown how the deep slurping noise was an indication of satisfaction by the person enjoying the vestiges of their Pot Noodle snack. Why would they make such a loud noise if it didn't taste so good?

It's a technique that has commonly been used in Japanese advertising, for products such as beer and ramen snacks. Again, it is not without controversy but culturally there are differences - slurping noodles is considered less offensive than it is in the West.

Look at this ad for Nissin Cup Noodles, for example, and how after slurping noodles people are imbued with magical (and bizarre) powers:

According to the Japanese website SoraNews24, there might also a linguistic factor at play. It explains: "In Japanese, the word nodogoshi often comes up when talking about beverages. Translating literally as 'throat passing,' nodogoshi is conceptually similar to mouthfeel, but refers specifically to the sensation as a liquid slides down your throat, and whereas 'mouthfeel' seems to crop up most commonly in English when discussing wine, nodogoshi has long been used when talking about beer, which is much more heavily advertised on TV..... Since gulping is a sound that comes from the throat, it becomes an audio clue that whatever is being drunk probably has a good nodogoshi."

So successful was the slurping noise in Japanese beer commercials that in 2017 Japan’s major brewers collectively decided on a self-imposed advertising restriction in which they mutually agreed to stop using the gulping sound in their beer commercials, following concern from the Japanese government that the sound could be harmful to viewers with alcohol dependency. It remains a mainstay of ads for ramen noodles, however.

So if slurping in ads is enough to tempt Japanese alcoholics off the bandwagon, then what does it mean for UK fans of cheap snack foods? Again, it's a cue for how delicious the product is - and is something that BBH used for its 'Zinger Crunch Salad Mouthful' ad for KFC, which also became the most complained about ad of 2005.

The ad showed a group of women in an emergency call centre singing to one another while they are eating their lunch. The voiceover artist, who also sounds as if she has been eating, brings the action to a close with the line: "The new Zinger Salad - it's just too tasty."

Complainants said the spot "encouraged bad manners among children, making it appear funny to speak or sing with a mouth full of food," an ASA spokeswoman said at the time. But much like the Japanese beer commercials (and Pot Noodle's recent effort) it was shorthand to putting the eating experience of KFC front and centre of the ad. (Incidentally the ASA ruled that the ad did not breach its codes, despite the 1,671 complaints and, for its part, KFC did not run the ad again anyway as it had finished its run. Job done, then).

Beverley and Brim acknowledge that the 'icky' Pot Noodle ad is an antidote to the sentimental ads for which adam&eveDDB became particularly famous, most notably for former client John Lewis.

"When we say 'feel something', we don't necessarily mean those weepy John Lewis adverts that we used to be culpable for, instead we mean the array of emotions that can light up our brains and build memories. To get people to feel something, we have leaned into the truth about Pot Noodle - it's a disgustingly delicious pot of slurpy satisfaction. In fact, the more you enjoy your noodles, the more noise you make," they say.

By linking something that many people find 'disgusting' with the 'delicious' bit of the product (much like BBH tried with KFC), they hope to hit a satisfying sweet spot, they say.

Unashamedly, they are also out to achieve brand fame for Pot Noodle (which was previously acclaimed for its edgy advertising using a HHCL-created strapline - "The slag of all snacks" - that wouldn't be considered appropriate now and imagery of men trawling red light districts looking for illicit Pot Noodle satisfaction).

"We deliberately set out to stir things up (pun intended) and get people talking, even if some of it is complaining," Beverley and Brim continue. "The combination of feels and fame has contributed to a disgustingly big spike in sales, so hopefully we might be onto something."


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