Alien Campaign Fail

Five favourite marketing aliens

As Jim Morrison of The Doors sang, People are strange, when you’re a stranger. And you don’t get stranger than aliens. Here’s my list of top five aliens in British marketing.

1. The Argos Aliens. These aliens are useless boring blue things with spindly necks, and poor dress sense. They spend their time loafing about in the way the bog standard British family do when portrayed in advertising. As stooges for the marketing message, however, they are fab. For the one thing these aliens have journeyed for light years through the outer darkness to discover is that they can shop online, and then pop into their Argos store to collect their orders. Woah! That’s how we roll guys. Worth the trip?


2. The Smash Aliens. In contrast, the much loved Cadbury’s Smash dried mashed potato aliens have attitude. Although plastic and jerky, the Smash aliens were superior to us. “they are clearly a most primitive people,” they chortled like derisive Daleks. For in the 1970s humans in the UK still made mashed potato by, um, mashing potatoes, rather than adding boiling water to a starchy powder to form a noxious, potato-based gloop.

Smash aliens

3. The Playstation Alien Chris Cunningham’s 1999 Playstation TV advertisement Mental Wealth featured a young Scottish woman with an CGI modified face and spindly body. Although she simply sits on a stool in an uncluttered set, her unsettling alien quality suggested an unnatural insight into Playstation’s virtues. Her copy starts teasingly: “Let me tell you what bugs me about human endeavour. I have never been the human in question, have you?” The on-screen copy reads was DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF PLAYSTATION. This is an alien who knows things we do not.


4. The Vodaphone Yoda By 2012 the consequences of the Jedi master’s drinking problem, always evident in his stumbling speech, led to him accept a gig as Vodaphone’s brand ambassador in the UK, where he was pictured at a bar (surprise, surprise) drinking ‘tea’ and being impressed with something crap to do with phones.

Yoda 2

5. Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Granola Aliens. Boy are these timid, nervous aliens. Not only that, they are something of a marketing fail as they have little or nothing to say about the product, other than be tremendously scared by the sound of someone munching a spoonful. Squandering the power of good aliens, if you ask me.


Argos petrol station ad

The Argos ads are works of some cunning. For only the British could love Argos, which is like shopping reinvented by the civil service. The faffing with smeary catalogues, hobbit ballpoints and forms; the baleful queues eyeing the struggles of temporary seasonal staff with increasing tetchiness… It’s what British Christmases are made of. These ads, however, are brilliant. For of course focusing on the actual purgatorial horror of the Argos shopping experience is clearly not a starter.

Instead they have the sheer gall to ridicule alternative shopping options. So in one we have the idea that you might like your presents wrapped. The absurdity! Or, in the latest one for the Argos online store, that the only possible alternative to cyber faffing is to raid a petrol station at midnight on Christmas eve. It works though, by thunder. The casting is excellent, and the colours all drained of vibrancy. And perfectly topped off with the Elizabeth Duke twinkle of Stephen Fry’s voiceover. One of the best examples of turning a weakness into a strength you’ll see.