D’oh! idea of the week

“The others to some meaning make pretence;
But Shadwell never deviates
into sense”
– Dryden

This week, crouching heading and shoulders below all other contenders … epic in its stupidity, witless irrelevance and incomprehensibility … a textbook example of corporate idiocy and waste… you just have to hand it to the e.on TV spots.

It is no easy trick to run something nobody understands, from a company they have never heard of and care less about asking them to do nothing, praising something both ugly and widely disliked by those affected by it.

What am I wittering on about? What is e.on? Why is this commercial so transcendentally bad? If you haven’t seen it go to http://www.eon-uk.com/media/286.aspx

Here we have creative masturbation harnessed at vast expense to such effect that even people who know nothing of this country find it irritating. I know that because even an Italian nanny of my acquaintance, with no interest in marketing at all finds it infuriating and pointless.

I’m not totally thick, but after five viewings I had no idea who was advertising, or why, or what they want me to do. I only know people affected by them hate those giant, ugly propellers so much that people in Wales are protesting.

Here is what they say on the site that shows the commercial:

“Powergen is part of E.ON UK, which is part of E.ON – the world’s largest private sector energy services company.
Worldwide, E.ON has around 45 million customers and currently employs around 70,000 people. Powergen has been part of E.ON since 2002.”

This is what is known as a “who gives a s**t except you” statement. These people in their fancy offices know so little about real business that they’re unaware of the three questions every customer always has: Who are you? What’s in it for me? What do you want me to do?

Of course, you’ve got it, haven’t you? This is our old friend re-branding at work. You know, the idea that almost ruined the Royal Mail when they changed their name to Consignia and completely ruined Abbey when they just changed their look.

At least Powergen had some vague meaning.

By the way, the Italian Nanny, whenever she brings something back from Marks & Spencer repeats their line: “It’s not just salmon; it’s M&S salmon.”

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. It looks liek they have hired a company to do the ad. They’ve all met up to come up with some silly concept. And then they’ve made it worse by asking their lawyer to write the key message:

    “Powergen is part of E.ON UK, which is part of E.ON – the world’s largest private sector energy services company…”

    And the lawyer, as is often their want, can’t resist puffing out his chest and showing how powerful they are – because of course that’s the thing that attracts customers.

    So after the seeing the advert, I’m assuming I can call up and order a wind turbine for my garden?

  2. Eccentric Fox

    My main bug bear with advertizing people is they have forgotted humour as a message carrier. Who could forget the Hamlet ads? Classical music, funny short story with a tag line that everyone knew meant ‘If it all goes wrong Fu*k It and have a quiet smoke with our quality product. It won’t make you look cool and you’ll smell like a smoked fish but you’ll enjoy the quiet time caused by the terrible smell forcing the annoying gits away’.

    Mr Denny do not get a wind turbine for your garden unless you get a two way meter fitted too. It can’t be right that you spend £1500 to save the world and then get nothing from the electricity company for your over production because as sure as eggs are eggs they will be charging some other poor bugger for it!

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