Don't Become the Necks Victim of "Vampire Creativity"

Kimberly BoggsAccount Executive
TV with red screen and vampire teeth with blog title

“Best ad ever? [singing] 'Gimme a break! Gimme a break! Break me off a piece of that...' um... what was it again?"

— Andy, The Office (US)


These days, the consumer marketplace has exploded with the number of product categories and brands. Marketers find themselves having to adopt exceedingly creative and innovative promotional strategies to gain attention in this fast-paced, overstimulated society. We must think outside the box to develop creative communication strategies to help prevent clutter and confusion in the minds of consumers.

However, have you ever seen a TV commercial or a magazine advertisement that captured your attention, then five seconds later, couldn’t recall what brand it was for? This is referred to as “vampire creativity” or the “vampire effect,” which occurs when the consumer’s attention is sucked away, by one factor or another, from the most crucial piece of the ad – the brand itself. An advertisement that's too clever, or features too memorable a gimmick, runs the risk of being remembered only for the gimmick and not the product or service it’s trying to promote. In this attempt to grab attention, the advertisement defeats the goal to effectively target the consumer and reduces, if not eliminates, brand recognition and recall.

This can occur when brands use celebrities to entice consumers to purchase their products, or when they test the waters with humor and break from the serious tone typically associated with their brand to garner attention. Reduced brand recall could also be due in part to logo placement, veering away from standard brand colors/fonts or the use of distracting imagery. Creative ideas with a possible negative connotation could also be misconstrued by the audience, further reducing connection with the brand. 

A Balancing Act

While an Account Executive tends to prefer a more pragmatic approach to satisfy client needs and stick to the outlined brief, Creatives desire the work to be original, unique, and artistic in nature, not just a fulfilled contract. Both are valuable and necessary for a successful marketing campaign. With this fine-tuned balancing act, out-of-the-box thinking paired with a defined brand profile + qualitative research can help reduce the dreaded effects of “vampire creativity”. 

Maintain a Consistent Brand Profile 

A brand profile creates an identity, which encompasses all the decisions made in marketing regarding communication, web presence, brand values and preferences, packaging, graphic design, etc. Combined with a well-planned strategic direction, maintaining a consistent brand profile can help infuse the personality and characteristics of your brand into all collateral and various touch points. This allows consumers to readily remember the brand’s appearance and messaging at a glance.

Conduct Market Research

In Rebecca’s blog, “To Research or Not to Research”, she mentioned that as a brand, or even as an agency working for a particular brand, it’s easy to become ingrained in your own thoughts and assumptions about a brand's target audience. You have to constantly remind yourself and your team that you are not your target audience. By conducting third-party qualitative focus groups, marketers can test creative executions prior to a campaign launch to gather consumer feedback, address any identified shortcomings, or possibly go back to the drawing board if the creative doesn’t resonate. 

Bonus: “Vampire Creativity” TV Commercial Examples

(note: these are based on personal opinion)

  • Moving away from Flo, Progressive began adopting GEICO's absurd and awkward approach to TV commercials. We all grew up watching the Caveman, the Gecko, the Camel – so now, seeing a strange half-man, half-motorcycle ad – I immediately assume the endplate will be for GEICO and will disengage before the ad is finished. It’s as if Progressive is pushing business into their competitor’s hands. 
  • The Demon Baby Volkswagen Lupo advertisement. There is nothing in this commercial that makes one want to buy a car, or remember that the ad is for a car in general. 
  • 1998 Hamster Wheel commercial. I’ll just leave this one here. 
  • Save for a few randomly placed bottles and the bat logo on the cat’s collar at the very end, there's not much information on what a cat has to do with alcohol in this Bacardi commercial
  • It can also occur when you’re emotionally swayed by the content of an advertisement, then suddenly brought back to reality feeling almost, duped, that you were being advertised to, causing a disconnect from the brand. A 2020 TV commercial, set to “Rainbow Connection”, about a child communicating with her older neighbor during the pandemic lockdown through signs posted in their windows, then it’s revealed the neighbor was hospitalized, and you become emotionally engaged with the narrative – only to be jarred back to reality when a Kohl’s logo appears on screen. I personally had to look it up again later to remember who the ad was even for. There was no apparent correlation with the story and the clothing retailer – thus reducing any brand recall.  

In summary: Be memorable and unique, yet stick to your core brand identity. Consider your audience. Consider your medium. Conduct market research. If your company is looking for guidance or marketing assistance, Texas Creative can help with all of this and more! What are some instances of “vampire creativity” that you’ve noticed?