How to be snarky

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Amber Lee

No. 1 golden rule of copywriting? No snark. Being negative doesn’t sell, because no-one likes a meanie. So, imagine our surprise to see Dwell successfully turn-up the snark-o-meter on their latest Those who know, Dwell campaign to sell classic and stylish interiors to people who don’t know about classic and stylish interiors. Blackad looks at how Dwell snarked and won with this campaign.

Tone of voice

As you know, a consistent tone of voice can do wonderful things for your brand, as can attaching a familiar voice to an ad that personifies that tone. Anna Maxwell Martin, best known for her role playing face-pulling, mother-who-gives-no-effs Julia in Motherland, narrates here. We wonder what she’s doing on this advert for nice furniture. We feel like someone we know is talking to us, even if it is someone we wouldn’t ordinarily be letting into our home…


We want to know why Julia-from-Motherland is describing art and furniture in intense detail, it seems a little out of character.  “…it symbolises the cognitive dissonance present in the belief — both that there is an inherent order in nature and that we are ruled by the fickle dice of chaos”. We didn’t think she cared. And we’re hooked.


She bursts the bubble by swapping to her “real” voice. Tired and, yes,  snarky. And she’s telling us how it really is. Her tone shifts — it’s a little louder, more dogged and she addresses YOU directly. “Truth is, you thought it looked like a frog drinking a pint”. 


Now we know where we are. And we’re comfortable. We’re enjoying our narrator as she calmly skewers our villain – pretentious art lovers. But she’s also laughing at you. It’s funny that you couldn’t care less about this stuff and nor does she. She’s encouraging you to not give a damn. Ha.


The heart of the whole campaign is empathy – Dwell are not selling the benefits of modern art and design. They’re solving a problem – and that is not having a clue. Julia-from-Motherland knows that you don’t have time to stay ahead of art and design trends. Because you have a real life to lead and too many DVDs that you need to hide somewhere. Tapping into these feelings is key to reaching Dwell’s audience. 

Translating snark

But can a snarky tone of voice from a human narrator in the ads translate to a billboard? In this case, yes. Dwell’s TOV work and crystal-clear messaging makes the campaign come alive in its non-telly ads too. Using an image of an upside-down painting, Dwell shows you that: no, you don’t really know about art. And the messaging tells you that Dwell sells stylish modern furniture to people who don’t know about stylish modern furniture. And who cares, anyway?

Conclusion – being snarky, your audience and your value proposition

The key to this campaign (read all successful campaigns) is understanding your audience. Dwell knowingly speaks to the hero of this story — the person who feels clueless and out of their depth with home decor. And it’s ok to laugh at yourself if you are this person, because despite the snarky voiceover, Dwell is empathising with you. And it’s offering you a solution. You are invited to join a clique, a new realm — a place where it’s ok to not know anything at all, and get away with it. “Those who know, dwell.” So yes, snark can sell and you can poke some mean fun at your audience, but only if it’s propped up by a winning value proposition.


Get in touch if you want a snark-free chat about your brand tone of voice.

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