Kill The Bastard

July 19, 2012 / Signed/Unsigned

By Alex Reeves

Gocompare.com are killing off their insufferable mascot. Well, sort of…

Product:  Gocompare.com
Title: Bazooka Sue
Production Company: Moxie
Director: Big Red Button
Production Producer: Jason Kemp
Ad Agency: Dare
Creative Directors: Nick Bird, Lee Smith
Creative Team: Colin Smith, Angus Vine
Agency Producers: Donna Baker, Barnie Stewart
Editing Company: Stitch
Post Production House: Framestore

So guess who’s still plaguing our commercial breaks? Gio Compario – the mascot of the Gocompare.com ads – a character who has provoked more exasperated sighs over the past four years than Bruce Forsyth’s so-called gags.

Most people know by now that Gocompare.com have taken a new advertising direction, but public opinion remains divided. The bad news is that our front rooms don’t look like they’ll be free from Gio’s irritating refrain any time soon. The good news? Well, at least this new campaign shares our hatred for the pesky tenor.

Gocompare.com, only five years old as a company, had never worked with an ad agency. The creative team who first conceived Gio for them were freelancers who specialised in writing the most infectious jingles in the industry (we’ll maintain their anonymity here to save them from being throttled in their sleep). They’d written other similarly memorable ads, including Sheila’s Wheels and Esure among their clients, and had done a great job for the web start-up, but with the public baying for the blood of these creatives’ operatic progeny Gocompare.com decided it was time for a change. They called a pitch and recruited some new creative blood.

When the price comparison website threw down the gauntlet to invigorate their brand’s public image creative directors Nick Bird and Lee Smith at Dare answered the call. Nick admits admiration for the original campaign. “It’s incredibly effective,” he confesses, “but it kind of reached a plateau and was just beginning to drop off the other side where people had started to really dislike it.”

Gocompare.com aren’t morons. They got this. The brief for the new concept focused on making the brand more likeable and less irritating. But there were conditions, says Nick. “The big bottom bit, underlined, was: ‘Keep all existing brand assets,’ i.e. keep him.”

The creatives at Dare could be nothing but honest, turning the new campaign against Gio, but they had to keep him and that jingle. “Unfortunately these aggregators are very front-of-mind companies,” acknowledges Nick. “When you need to change your car insurance you’ll sit down and it needs to be: ‘who am I thinking of first?’” Gio and his song were memorable and this is what saved him.

Apart from the limitations of the brief, Dare had Clearcast – the NGO that approves TV commercials – to contend with. They couldn’t unleash Bruce Willis on Gio with a crowbar, even if that’s the public wanted (it was). They had to go a bit more Looney-Toons – how about Sue Barker with a giant yellow bazooka?

Despite its silliness, the violence was still too controversial for some viewers, provoking over 40 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. In response to this, one online commenter suggested they should have written “ACME Co.” on the rocket launcher, just to make sure viewers didn't mistake the ad for Mike Leigh's latest gritty realist offering.

“That was definitely the way we wanted to get it through,” says Nick. “We had to up the comedy value because the minute you took it to too dark a place Clearcast wouldn’t approve it and it would never see the light of day.”

The public are understandably irritated by Gio’s apparent immortality, but another thing that’s been frustrating them about the new ad is its inexplicable choice of assassin. The guys at Dare find this a source of some amusement. “That’s quite enjoyable. People are desperate to make this link,” says creative Colin Smith. “She’s well-loved. We thought it needs to be a well-loved British staple of Britain. And who’s better than Sue Barker?”

As Nick points out, she is the last person you expect to see wielding a rocket launcher. And this simple recipe has got potential for a long-running operation. As the campaign progresses, who knows what national treasures may attempt to shut the mascot’s annoying moustachioed gob? This could be fun.

But doesn’t Dare risk replacing one formulaic run of ads with another equally predictable campaign?

“I think at this point there’s a little bit of formula to it,” Nick concedes. Naturally, the public will need familiarising with the new campaign. “But we’re going to start having fun with it. The brief from the client is ‘I’ve been doing a very formulaic style of ads for the last four years and I don’t want to do that anymore. Just have fun with it.’”

You’d think it would be frustrating for Nick and co. to know they can’t actually kill the Italian rapscallion, but the creative director denies this. “It’s never been really so much about killing him,” he explains. “It’s more about shutting him up. So as more executions roll out you see that there’re many different ways.” If it’s about silencing him let’s hope we don’t have to listen to that jingle for much longer then.

You may be disappointed that Gio lives to pollute your ad breaks another day and you wouldn’t be alone in this sentiment. The current top comment on the YouTube page for the video reads, somewhat cruelly, “Hands up if you think that Sue Barker should be shot herself...for not doing a proper job.” But no matter how red in the face it makes you, blowing up Gio has caused a stir around the brand. People are talking about Gocompare.com and that is exactly the point.

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