One of the most frustrating things in the world for me is when I see an ad and think, "Okay... I don't get it." I like to think I'm pretty smart (which should be blatantly obvious to anyone who reads this site regularly) but every once in a while a spot or series of spots just leaves me staring blankly.
A few months back, Smirnoff Ice introduced "Uri," the generic Arctic-dwelling Eastern European with a fake accent (what's with that?) who uses his back yard for a fridge, and loves his Smirnoff Ice.
Okay, I'm with you so far. He lives in the Arctic, and likes Smirnoff Ice. Makes sense.
Then they started developing that campaign and the character further. Now, usually when companies do that, they mean to keep a character around for a little while. Sometimes it's a character like Ronald McDonald, or sometimes it's a real person like Dave Thomas. Either way, the method of character development in a commercial is much different from the character development in a play or a movie. It's simple. It's linear. Every element works together to create a total picture of that character.
Then I saw this - a bus shelter ad near my house.
I pose this question to you, loyal readers. What in the holy Hell does this have to do with anything? It has nothing to do with the Arctic, it has nothing to do with using your backyard as a fridge, and I don't remember any references to Uri asking stupid questions that belong on the sign of a wacky dry cleaner in a small town.
In fact, I should point out that it wasn't until resizing this image to fit on the Web that I even realized that this ad was for watermelon flavoured Smirnoff Ice. And I walk past this stupid thing EVERY DAY.
Essentially, this ad took my understanding of Uri as a character, and threw it for a loop. I didn't expect it, it didn't fit it with what I already knew, and it didn't back up the brand the way a character like this should.
Bottom line - if I don't get it, chances are most of your audience doesn't either. That's a dangerous game to play, especially in the formative stages of a made-up corporate shill. As soon as I don't understand, I don't care. And as soon as I don't care, I'm no longer engaged. After that, you're wasting your breath - and ad budget.