During the rather dull periods of my day when I’m not knitting (or writing about knitting, or thinking about writing about knitting, or – ahem – buying yarn to knit with), I have a full-time job. In marketing. Now I know that for many this marks me out as some sort of shallow, money-grabbing product pusher, intent on parting you from your hard-earned cash in return for something shiny and pointless. But I promise you I’m not like that. For starters, I’m not really involved in the advertising side of things. I write the leaflets, manuals and website content that tells you how to use your shiny pointless thing and my aim is to make it all as simple as possible. I do, however, work in the mobile phone industry, which has a particularly bad reputation for doing anything and everything to make you buy one product or service over another.
Which is why I was wholly unsurprised to see Vodafone Ireland hopping on the guerrilla knitting bandwagon in the hope of convincing people that they were kooky, young and ever-so-slightly daring. If you haven’t seen the advert already, feel free to click on the link below though I feel I should warn you that it is particularly nauseating in places (particularly the use of the eponymous Irishism “deadly”, suggesting that the whole script was written by someone whose only other experience of Ireland was the occasional episode of Father Ted). And if the advert sickens you, definitely don’t visit the Vodafone website…
Bad hair, machine knitting and dodgy word choice aside, it’s undeniable that this is a truly terrible ad. Not just because the overall message is unclear (though anyone in the know is welcome to explain to me what exactly is the consumer benefit in “cheering up your top-up”). In using guerrilla knitting to inspire their new campaign, Vodafone has attempted to associate itself with a movement based on rebellion, individuality and secrecy – the polar opposite of a commercial advertisement aired on national telly. It just doesn’t work for a big corporation. Particularly one that has nothing to do with knitting.
My guess would be that it was dreamed up by an edgy creative agency executive who confused guerrilla knitting with graffiti knitting, assuming it was nothing more that the yarny equivalent of a student with a free hugs sign. It’s just a bit of fun, it raises a smile or two; surely there’s nothing more to it than that? One or two angry yarnstomers might tell him otherwise.
So what to do? How to respond to this poisoned chalice of a challenge? The angry knitter in me wants to protest: to knit vivid swatches decrying the campaign and storm the company HQ, demanding they withdraw the ads and apologise (all yarn-based compensation welcome). But the marketer in me knows that publicly decrying the ad will only serve to draw yet more attention – and potentially revenue – to their ill-conceived campaign, to the extent that guerrilla knitting could become associated with the brand for the foreseeable future: a horrible thought. So however much I’d like to protest, there’s only really one option: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Switch on Rage Against The Machine and jump about for a bit instead. It helps, I promise.