Harvey Nichols #SpentItOnMyself: ‘when the world zigs, zag’ idea beyond advertising

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One of the creative directors I had worked with many moons ago, insisted on watching all of the major competitive work in a category before creating advertising for a brand. Routine, you say? The intention was not just to see what competition is doing but to avoid doing them for your brand. Very often, major categories in advertising have unwritten rules or codes. Marketers insist on their ads following such codes in order to help the viewers figure out the category  – so all tea brands have similar shots (tea leaves in water, people enjoying tea with eyes shut), all biscuit brands have similar shots (wheat, sugar, milk chocolate & other ingredients being poured into a mix, the biscuit breaking in two, the bite shot, a shot cueing great taste) and so on). So when a category is cluttered with many brands, chances are all the advertising looks alike. The intention of the marketer was to do the right thing for his brand but at times it ends up creating a sea of sameness in the category.

Feel-good ads for big retail is almost a part of Christmas tradition in the UK. Every year, all the big brands in the category – Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and others release multi-million dollar efforts to drive sales. The feel-good ad, the tear jerker ad, the big-production dazzle-dazzle ad – have all become part of that mix. Last year, Harvey Nichols departed from the usual gooseflesh inducing, feel good film with an advert which explored the dilemma of a #samedress situation, resulting in more than just a cat fight. This year, they are back with another theme which zigs, when the world zags.

The idea is based on an insight that most people keep aside a major portion of their holiday shopping budget for spending on themselves.  As Harvey Nichols explains, tongue firmly in cheek:

This Christmas, a little something for them means a bigger something for you. So whilst shopping at Harvey Nichols for the festive season why not pick up a pack of Toothpicks to gift a loved one, and perhaps a pair of Louboutins for yourself (what else are you going to wear to the Christmas party?) Christmas cooks will thank you for a See-Through Glass Salt Cellar (salt not included) and show your appreciation for their hard work by looking seriously stylish for Christmas lunch in a new Lanvin dress.

Plus, nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a packet of Authentic Lincolnshire Gravel; so give the gift that keeps on giving whilst treating yourself to a little something too.


The advertising humorously captures a possible ‘Christmas Day’ celebration with an oh-so-subtle indication of the expensive merchandise:

Agency: adam&eveDDB

The #Spentitonmyself has a wide collection for everyone: an Elastic Band Gift set for Mum; Genuine Wire Sponge for Dad; and nothing quite says Merry Christmas like a packet of Authentic Lincolnshire Gravel.

What I liked about it:

– it is based on a human insight – a universal truth. People may not admit it openly but we all have such a streak

– the idea is beyond just an advertising claim. Real, #Spentitonmyself products have been created for sale at the stores

– the ‘negative’ tone of voice gets people talking about the idea and the ad. Sure some people will hate it (‘depressing’, ‘selfish’, ‘against the season-of-giving’ etc.) but that’s to be expected. The actual outcome of this marketing campaign will not be about people buying door-stoppers or other cheap stuff as gifts for others, but about people having a laugh about the brand’s communication.

– the effortless social media buzz

– furthering of the perception of Harvey Nichols as a premium brand

The irony: this work is created by the same agency which also worked on John Lewis.

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