Slogan Doctor

Philips: Sense and simplicity

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

You have to admire Philips, one of the world's great technology companies. And you have to admire the Dutch, not least for their facility with English. But it's not their first language. Take 'Sense and Simplicity'. The component parts worked for Philips in Eindhoven and for ad agency DDB London, which jointly developed it and launched it as an ambitious 'brand promise' in 2004. Simplicity is an admirable goal in consumer technology, but the slogan doesn't gel. Halfway through, it does a grammatical hand-brake turn. 'Sense' is a quality in the observer, not the observed: I have sense, not my toaster. My toaster, though, has 'simplicity'; I certainly don't. Its sound is wrong too. Whether or not it alludes to Jane Austen (and why would it?), the slogan needs an internal rhyme: that's why 'Sense and Sensibility' works and 'Sense and Sensitivity' would work, perhaps for Durex. But 'sense and simplicity' stumbles around our vowel system.

Native speakers may not know they notice these things, but they do. Shame on DDB.

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