#Trends. 4G - Bringing home the [Kevin] Bacon


by Ashley Morrison.

You may have heard of something called the three-second rule. In advertising terms, if the person you're trying to sell to doesn't understand your message within three seconds, then your message is too long. But the latest EE commercial, advertising 4G and featuring Kevin Bacon, is a whopping 115 seconds. And yet it is a spectacularly engaging, funny and memorable ad. Rules are there to be broken, it seems.

But before we get on to the breaking of the length-based rules, here's another one.

Well, it's not a rule so much as an idea.

And quite a good one at that.

Well, arguably.

I subscribe to a regular newsletter from someone who many people refer to as one of the country's direct marketing gurus.

Or one of the planet's best, I've also heard.


What he doesn't know about direct marketing isn't worth knowing, so I've learned.

One thing that really pops out when he sends an email is this:

All his paragraphs are one sentence long.

Yes, just one.

I can see the point: not only is it easier to take in, but somehow you're less inclined to skip a paragraph.

Because if you miss a paragraph, you might well miss something very, VERY important.

And by not skipping paragraphs, that means most - if not ALL - of his message gets read.

That leads me on to rule number two (which sort of ties in with point number one). Forget trying to be clever. Just be CLEAR.

As we know, most TV ads are 30 seconds long (very occasionally, some stretch to 60 seconds). So what on earth were one ad agency thinking by stringing out an advert for mobile network provider Everything Everywhere (EE) to almost four times the usual length with barely a pause for breath during what is tantamount to an information overload, you may ask. 4G may be the new buzzword around the high street's mobile phone shops, but really, who would want to listen to someone bang on about how amazing it is for nearly two minutes?

Well, in this particular case, I would. And so would a lot of people I know.

Rob Potts and Andy Jex - executive creative directors at Saatchi & Saatchi - were responsible for the ad. They took a gamble by stretching the attention span of the audience, but they succeeded. This is in no small part thanks to their choice of actor - Hollywood A-lister Kevin Bacon - tying that in with the famous party game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon".

Just in case you're not familiar with it, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game where someone challenges you to find a connection between two apparently random celebrities - usually Hollywood actors. The challenge is to find the connection within six degrees of separation. Think LinkedIn connections but more interesting.

Kevin Bacon has been in a LOT of movies, so he's pretty much connected to everyone in Hollywood in some form or other; that's why the game is named after him. So what EE are trying to tell us is that, with 4G and fibre-optic mobile broadband (on which they currently have a complete monopoly until next year), we're all connected - even to Kevin Bacon. And if we aren't, we can be!

The campaign has been rolled out across TV, cinema, press, radio, digital and outdoor advertising - although the most effective is definitely TV and cinema, in my opinion. And it's full of great one-liners too. With Kevin Bacon poking fun at himself ("I'm not here to talk about Kevin Bacon, Hollywood A-lister; I'm here to talk about Kevin Bacon, centre of the universe, he quips), it is fun, entertaining and superbly scripted.

But moving on to rule number two - the clarity rule - this is where it gets interesting beyond the point of entertainment. It is full to bursting with information, with Kevin talking ten to the dozen for almost two minutes. He whisks us through movie streaming, to online gaming, to browsing the whole gamut. And yet, somehow, he never loses us. Or rather, we pick up on the bit that interests us or applies to us AND we're entertained.

It is, of course, completely different in approach to the Volkswagen ads which I blogged about a few weeks ago, which are very sparsely scripted and underplayed. But I am in absolute awe of the creative directors who wrote and directed these ads - and Kevin Bacon has even gone up in my estimation to boot.

So the lesson, I suppose, is: Break the rules.

But only if you know the rules in the first place.

And only if you can do something BETTER by breaking them.

In case you haven't seen any of the Kevin Bacon EE ads, here's one of my favourites. 

Ashley Morrison is a blogger, copywriter and editor.


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