Calm in the chaos

The band Blur once claimed that modern life is rubbish. But the real truth is that modern life is busy, switched on and more than a little stressful.

Matt Buttrick, Alpha Century

Partner and Head of Strategy


Alpha Century - Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy encouraged viewers to Stop, for 30 seconds

The band Blur once claimed that modern life is rubbish. But the real truth is that modern life is busy, switched on and more than a little stressful.

The last percentage of battery, that big presentation and overcrowded gyms are among the tiny worries that add up to hours of tension each week. Bring in the ‘improvements’ in technology that see us tethered to our phones and it all starts to build up. Finally, add in the problem that we think we need to do all of these things, all at the same time and it’s no wonder that life feels more exhausting than ever.

So, stress is an inevitable part of a busy, modern life. Unfortunately as most of us are time-poor, stress-release mechanisms frequently tend to be either inadequate e.g. drinking alcohol, having a shot of caffeine or sugar, eating fatty comfort foods, or infrequent e.g. a long run once a week, a relaxing massage once every three weeks.

And finally let’s turn to the box in the corner. We watch TV to relax, right? But most TV programing is about creating anxiety and tension, cliffhangers dealing with precarious dilemmas or shocking revelations. Who will be voted off next? Will the football team come back in the second half? Will the soufflé rise? Everything is designed explicitly to crank things up further, creating hidden stress cues invisibly sewn into our downtime.

Yes, some people are trying to fight the good fight and provide an antidote. One café in Vancouver was specifically built to repel Wi-fi and phone reception, but ironically doesn’t that just sound more stressful?

So, what’s to be done? There are some brands, those frequent peddlers of brash interruption, that are changing down a few gears.

Breathe Rescue Remedy.jpg
Dr Edward Bach creates Rescue Remedy
people who would buy Rescue Remedy again

Rescue Remedy – And breathe

In the 1930s Dr Edward Bach, a British Physician, created Rescue Remedy to help people relax, regain focus and get through stressful situations. Yes, people were also stressed back then.

And although a popular stress reliever ever since, the brand still struggles to increase awareness, bring in new users and go mass, even though it's something you’d think was becoming more relevant to more people in the modern age.

Our challenge in comms was to find a way to make a small brand cut through the huge noise in the OTC category and create campaigns that not only dramatised the product truth but disrupted it in a way that was faithful and unique to the brand.

So, while life is stressful and noisy and advertising usually adds to that, we’d be the antidote to all this. Oh and just to make things interesting, regulations meant we couldn’t mention the word ‘stress’ at any point, which for a stress-relief product isn’t great.

TV advertising in the OTC sector often tries to persuade by cramming in multiple proof points, filling up the airtime with reasons to buy. We did the opposite and created a “moment of calm”. A 30-second, almost silent plain yellow ad. No dense action. No urgent demo. No anxious science.

Just a single calmly spoken word with a caption:  “Stop…”

A silent oasis amongst the smash and grab competition. The spot closed with a calming voiceover: “Take a moment everyday with Rescue Remedy. 97% of people who try Rescue Remedy would buy it again”. We’d communicated all we needed to. 

In OOH we set out to create another real moment of calm for people in the mother of stress moments, the underground commute. But this time the advertising would be impossible to ignore in OOH. In fact, simply reading the advertising required people to take a moment out and breathe.

The commercial effectiveness was considerable. Following the TV advertising, average week-on-week sales were up +30% with +67% in Sainsbury’s. Rescue™ leapt to bumber one in the category in monthly unit sales for six months, while the campaign had a Halo effect on the total range as all SKU sales went up.

The OOH was also highly effective. Close to 40,000 new users were bought into the brand across the campaign and Boots saw a +40% unit uplift in London across the entire Rescue range vs 27% nationally.

Alpha Century, London
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calm in the chaos top.jpg

Sofology – Chilling on the sofa

Marketing for most sofa companies is about money off deals, over excited sales and seeing shoppers literally shopping in shops. But last time we checked owning a sofa was actually about sprawling out and slumbering. Sofology’s latest TV and Gogglebox idents revelled in the sheer joy of kicking back with the king of chilling, Owen Wilson. The spots achieved 50% ad recall within just one week and 7 times less ratings than competitor DFS.


When home really matters, Alpha Century

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Addison Lee – Me time

Once upon a time you just hailed a cab. But then along came Uber and made it all easy and simultaneously more stressful, with cancelled journeys, clueless drivers and potluck cleanliness. In the crossfire, Addison Lee returned to a key benefit taxis had forgotten: shutting the world out, cocooning oneself and the effortlessness of private car travel. It sold not the whizzy apps or the cars but the core emotional benefit, that of tranquillity.


Addison Lee, Alpha Century

Cunard – Freedom on the high seas

Some cruise ships have 6,000 people crammed on them, while in the skies, most airlines are geared to pack people in with the distraction of all-you-can-eat movies and promises of Wi-Fi. By contrast, Cunard have more space per passenger than any other cruise company. The brand advertising delights in going off grid, celebrating the wind-in-the-hair feeling of horizon-less freedom, something the mainstream cruise industry have long forgotten.


Time to forget about time., Alpha Century
Guest Author

Matt Buttrick, Alpha Century

Partner and Head of Strategy


Matt’s unique experience spans senior roles in both creative and media agencies. He is partner and Head of Strategy at creative agency Alpha Century and is lucky to lead the thinking on brands as diverse as Coral, Save the Children, Cunard, Riverford and yellow tail. He has won numerous planning awards including a Creative Effectiveness Black Lion at Cannes and a Gold at the IPA Effectiveness Awards. He helped lead the planning that produced the Grand Prix winning LifePaint campaign for Volvo.

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