How to create a brand identity…

March 18, 2014

Funny thing about this ad is that it wasn’t made by Tesla. You should read the story here, but basically it was a bunch of college grads looking to break into advertising. They spend a grand total of $1500.

What I love about this ad, is that it totally gets the emotion right. It tells a story of wonder, of excitement, of innocence. There are a lot of reasons to buy a Tesla, but basically, they’re saying you buy it because its just plain cool. (Not because you want to be cool, but because its coolness excites you.) They tell you that in a story, no, that’s not right, they don’t tell you, they show it.

What’s more, I think they capture the truth about what makes Tesla cool. I’ve reviewed a bunch of ads recently that tell great brand stories, but when the company is revealed, it feels like a let down because what they’re saying doesn’t match the identity that brand holds in my mind. Maybe because these guys are outsider or beginners (there’s a whole zen concept of beginner’s mind) or really smart and talented or just really in tune with Tesla (probably some combination of all those things), they seem to hit the nail on the head.

I love the moment with the dad where he dons the cardboard helmet. This spot is what it means to be on-emotion & on-message.

They could have chosen to sell a product, all electric, zero to sixty, cutting edge, blah, blah, blah, instead they created a brand identity. That’s a much harder lift, but it works here because its authentic to the product, and these days, that might be more important than creativity. 

Getting the right tone

February 28, 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4wNMOapzyw

So this one missed the mark.

I like the delivery and Neal McDonough, but man is that ad off base. What is it selling exactly? Ok I know its selling a luxury car, but what is the message of the ad? A mindless devotion to stuff? Working obsessively? It’s almost like a warped parody of the Chrysler “Made in Detroit” commercials. Jingoistically proclaiming American greatness, but without the original’s grit or underdog spirit.

There’s an arrogance to this ad, an almost mean spirited tone that totally ruins whatever the creators were going for.

When you get the tone wrong, its really hard to recover.

The road less travelled…

February 26, 2014

Big disclaimer… this ad has some disturbing images.

I really don’t like this ad from Save the Children UK.

I don’t like shock value, and I think this ad depends on the easier to access shock value rather than the harder to achieve hope. Its shocking because they think that will get attention, and they’re right, it will get attention. But when they have my attention where do they take me? Can they get me to connect to the message and give me money to their cause, which the ultimate goal of this ad.

I think they missed the boat. They could have shown a mother giving birth, we could have heard the baby crying, but what about seeing the happy family members? What about seeing the mother holding her new born baby? They could have told a moving story, a story every parent could connect with, instead they decided to shock us into paying attention.

Instead of relief or happy or hope, they leave me feeling grossed out and kinda spent emotionally, that’s not what’s going to motivate me to give. The image in my mind is the mother turned on her side crying, is that really the emotion & message they’re trying to convey?

Beyond being off-emotion, I think the ad is off-message. The CG’s feel misordered, they should have put the midwife information into the middle of the ad, and ended with “Make sure a baby’s first day isn’t its last…” which has a nice ring to it and hits the message they’re trying to deliver.

Attention is easy, real emotion is hard, this ad takes the easy route and is less effective for it.

What’s the function?

February 25, 2014

Is this the first political ad filmed on an iPhone?

I’m all for doing something to get some attention, but what the point of filming it on an iPhone (other than to save money or get attention)? There might be legitimate reasons to film on the iPhone, “My campaign doesn’t have as much money as my opponents…” or maybe its just a gimmick to make the ad feel more “homey” or to make her likable (see I’m like you, I film things on my iPhone).  In that case you have to go with the concept and trust it. Having her holding the iPhone then cutting to images that were created in a studio seems like a cop out at that point.

I don’t find the ad cutting edge or really interesting, though the copy has some potential. To me the iPhone thing is more distracting rather than a plus or interesting, it takes away from what could be an interesting message. What if she used the iPhone to tell her story, then encouraged her supporters to send in their iPhone videos of their families? What if she used the iPhone like we all do, taking selifies and quick pictures from her day of filming, then continued to push out iPhone videos of her day? Then the idea is about more than just the ad, its a concept to engage your audience rather than a lame gimmick that doesn’t really tell me anything about the candidate.

 

 

Reality Speaks for Itself

February 13, 2014

So you might expect that I’d deem this Dell ad a failure based on my last post.

Yes, I know Dell was started in a dorm room and part of what attracted me to Dell (back when I was in the PC world) was that sense of excitement around something new. Dell was an innovator, selling directly to consumers, building PCs to order. But I’m said to say for me and Dell, that was almost 20 years ago now. The Dell of today,from where I stand, has become another commodity, whether they fell pray to the innovator’s dilemma, just didn’t have a second act, or just lost touch with their roots and values as they grew, I don’t know.

That’s why this ad is so compelling. It touches on the Dell that I remember, it touches on that excitement and the feelings associated with boot-straping and startups. I think this ad is well done, in case you haven’t gotten that point yet. But I think the real test of whether this ad is a success or failure is what Dell does next.

Is this just another ad designed to bolster Dell’s position in the market place or is this ad a real attempt by Dell to reconnect with their roots? Is this ad a signal that Dell is going to take ownership of that startup story?

If Dell thinks that they can run an ad like this one and continue with business as usual, and things will change, then I think they’re in for a surprise. But if Dell is really committed to having that start-up spirit again, if we (meaning consumers) see those changes in their choices as a company, well then that’s an exciting proposition.

What if Dell said, “We’re the computer company of entrepreneurs everywhere because we were started in a dorm room, so we get it” (ok that’s more of the meta-message, they should say that, but much less on the nose). What if they had special services that catered to the entrepreneur in all of us. Like what? I don’t know, Dell would need to figure that out, it could be a special tech support system or having a business consultant who could help you use Dell technology to start your venture, the details (so long as they’re actually useful to entrepreneurs) aren’t so important, what is important is that they match their message, the story they’re telling in this ad, with what consumers see them doing.

People have good bullshit detectors, if a company spins a story that doesn’t match the reality, folks usually pick it up. This is a compelling ad, an ad that tells a story, the real question is this: Is that story fiction or nonfiction?

What is a successful ad?

February 12, 2014

I read a great book last year called “Hannibal and Me.”  In a nutshell, the book talked about the writer’s obsession with the great Carthaginian General Hannibal. In examining his life, he makes a larger point about success and failure. Rome never defeated Hannibal in battle. At one point he killed something like 1/5 of all Romans who were eligible to serve in the army. Was Hannibal a success or failure?

Sixteen years always fighting the much larger Roman army on their home turf never defeated, and ultimately never victorious… Hannibal never took Rome, never brought Rome to its knees. He was defeated by a Roman General named Fabius. Fabius’ strategy, constant retreat, he never won a battle.

How we define success and failure is often overlooked, but it is critical to remember what your ultimate goals are.

Which brings us to these ads:

I think these are both terrific ads, great copy, well filmed with compelling visuals (wait for it, here it comes….). But I have to wonder if the build up matches the payoff.

After all that does an apron really equal progressive? Is that what Progressive is about? Is it about hard work, about the people who show up everyday without a hint of glory? That’s not what I think of as Progressive Insurance, they’re the ones with Flo and low rates, maybe.

And the second ad, is beautiful. Its how anyone in love feels when they look at the person they love, it captures a truth, and in doing so it says we get it, we understand you. I was with the ad, in with the payoff (how long did it take for those flowers to sprout) that was a little sappy. But its selling what? Hair care products, what? How are they involved in love? I mean the woman had great hair, but what? Now maybe that brand has some affiliation with that message, but still I felt cheated at the end.

So are these good ads? Yes. Are they successful ads? I don’t think so…. Which brings me back to my first question: Are these good ads? Can an ad that doesn’t succeed in pushing its message, that doesn’t change the image of a brand or build upon its existing image be a good ad?

I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it can.

Another Super Bowl Ad review…Wide Right

February 11, 2014

I think most Super Bowl ads miss the point.

You’re on the largest ad stage there is, and most ads aim to get attention instead of driving emotion and message — you already have folks attention. The SuperBowl is probably the one event where people are as excited to watch the commercials as they are to watch the event.  Do you need to entertain, yes, but the right emotion can do that and leave a memorable impression about your brand.  Instead brands seem to settle for spitting on the table, they go after the attention they already have but forget about resonating or connecting.

In the order I saw the ads:

This ad had me hooked. Great copy, “The World is full of giants…,” interesting visuals, and a great read by a child narrator. It was a paean to the little guy, the underdog in all of us (and who doesn’t love the underdog). The ad had me hanging on the edge of my seat, waiting for the reveal, I thought it was the new Chrysler ad, a tribute to America and that uniquely American juxtaposition as the last super power and the world underdog. It had me… until it became and ad for Maserati.

WTF? How? Who? Is Maserati really out there fighting giants? The cars cost like $100,000, they aren’t underdogs at all. It was a jip, and I felt cheated. Seriously the ad left me angry, that they had manipulated me.

Got a laugh from the ad, but so what? Case and point, it entertained, but what’s the message? What’s emotion that Dorritos wants me to feel about their chips? Something worth stealing? Funny, but ultimately pointless, classic super bowl ad.

Huh? What? Who’s the ad for?

Ok, this might have been the best ad of the night. Maybe I was just the right demographic, but it was on-message, it was clever, and it was entertaining. The ad shows Radio Shack gets its out of touch in today’s world, that its been stuck in the 80′s (for lack of a better decade), it says they get they aren’t servicing your needs, and that’s going to change. Good use of the platform to announce a big shift in approach.

Was it a great ad, earth shakingly good? No, it was a little too irreverent to be great, but it was good and made its point.

I know I’m supposed to get all chocked up about this cancer survivor ad from Chevy, but I think it really missed the mark.  Too slow, and why is Chevy supporting Cancer survivors? I mean we all support cancer survivors, but what’s Chevy’s particular interest? How does this reinforce their brand image or message? Just seemed like a slow random spot that was trying too hard to make me feel something.

I liked this commercial too. It says something about the brand, and pertaining to my earlier point, it taps into a particular American contrast — feeling great, but being under estimated or appreciated. My problem with the ad is I have no what Weather Tech is or what they do. I love the positioning, but needed just a little more reinforcement of the information for this ad to be truly effective.

I thought the ad was funny, but unlike the Darth Vader ad,the irreverence in this ad didn’t really connect to a larger message. Somehow there was less a sense of truth in this ad that I could relate to. My kids thought it was funny though, though anytime they hear the word butt they laugh.

I liked this ad too. Unlike the Maserati ad, this ad fits into my  existing schema of what Coke stands for. Its interesting in so far, as its the type of ad a mature brand like coke can run, but a newer brand (Weather Tech) has more trouble pulling off.

I thought this was an interesting ad. I liked the use of Bruce Willis, and thought it was a good message for Honda. The end of the ad feels a little too silly for the message, it felt off tone. I think the ad would have been fine with just Bruce Willis or just someone hugging him (or him hugging his kids or something). The strange guy feels out of place.

Gosh, I would have liked to like this ad. Chrysler is tapping into those big themes, America, the Underdog, exceptionalism, and it had Bob frickin Dylan. I loved their “made in Detroit” campaigns from the last couple of Super Bowls. But this ad just never hooked me. Maybe it was the opening line, “Is there anything more American than America?” Is that supposed to be profound or ironic?

I mean great images, and it did have some great lines, like “you can’t import original, “you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line,” and  “So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phones, we will build your cars….”

But in the end, the pieces never add up. I wonder if ultimately that’s because of the choice of Dylan, who I see as so anti-establishment. The words seem ironic coming from a man who seems so anti-American exceptionalism in a way (not saying Dylan is anti-America, just that his brand runs counter to all those things associated with… well this ad). Eminem made sense for Chrysler, he’s associated with Detroit and has that edgy bravado they were portraying, Dylan, well, why Dylan? It just never clicked for me despite the various elements.

I thought this was a really nice ad for a sport that’s in decline due to worries about concussions.

It captures a truth, it captures all the things I love about the sport, it captures that unique sense of togetherness, of connection, that being a fan of a team can bring. It was kinda a beautiful spot, and I think potentially a powerful message.

Finally what would a Super Bowl be without a Scientology commercial…? Wait, what? Ok, this one was a bit of a surprise. Religion like politics are hard to judge because so much of your own identity comes into play. That being said, I think this is a pretty good commercial. While it didn’t appeal to me personally, I think it could be effective to connecting with folks who feel lost into’s world. The commercial felt modern and assured, it offered a solution — spirituality (not religion mind you) and technology. That’s a potentially a powerful mix.

As far as branding or re-branding the church, I think if you’ve never heard of or though about scientology its a really effective ad, if you had some idea of what Scientology is before hand, I not so sure it would help to overcome whatever doubts you (or I) hold.

So that’s it. Like the game, I thought the ads were mostly a bust. There were a few good ones, but in general I thought the ads missed the mark.

Don’t see this every day….

January 31, 2014

The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated events in the advertising world, and I’ll definitely be writing some thoughts on the ads post game next week.

But this ad caught my eye not only because its not the usual type of Super Bowl ad, but also because it’s not the usual issue you see advertised.

I liked the sparseness of the copy, and some of the images were very compelling. I also thought the punch line was strong, like a good punch to the gut, you’re watching and wondering where this is going, and when it gets there, I found it surprising (maybe *because* they haven’t run ads around this issue before). The ad also is very effective at humanizing a minority group that is often lost in the shuffle (at least on the East Coast, maybe less so out West or in states with large reservations).

They aren’t just Indians or Native Americans, they’re people  — fathers, sons, mothers, daughters etc, just like you and me. I like the sense of Native American pride that it evokes without resorting to the usual myth making or hyperbole. There’s just a nice lyrical nature to the ad.

I had three issues with the ad:

1. It’s too long. Maybe they felt they had to go big because its the superbowl, but the message is so simply and cleanly delivered, they could have done it much more effectively in a minute. About half way through I started to lose interest at the repetition (interesting as it was, it was becoming familiar), and I’m not sure that extra minute adds anything to the message or to the emotional punch. You get it after 30-40 seconds, don’t need it reinforced and all it does it take away from the emotion punch at the end.

2. I found some of the images not as compelling as others.

3. Not sure if this is an issue or not, but I was struck by the native accent of the narrator. I understand the reasons for using a Native American to narrate the ad, and I’m not sure using the standard narrator would have been appropriate or effective, but it was distracting for me in the sense that I was thinking about the narrator instead of the content of the message or images (maybe that also goes back to point 1, it was too long, so I was able to “see the boom in the shot” because my attention was wandering).

Still overall I thought this was a really nice spot, and I wonder if the more lyrical copy, slower pace, and overall tone of the ad will help it contrast especially with the other Super Bowl ads that often feel the need to assault your senses.

 

The power of personality

January 13, 2014

A lot of catching up to do in the pre-Super Bowl quiet….

We’ll start today with this ad from a friend of mine. I usually try not to comment on videos when I know the folks involved, but this video is worth taking a few minutes out to watch.

What I appreciate about this video beside the clever presentations is that the personality of the candidate shines through. Now I’ve never met Daylin Leach, but I imagine he’s exactly like what I see here. The gimmicks in the video add to the authenticity of the final product presenting an image of an unrepentant liberal with boundless energy, someone who is serious but doesn’t take himself too seriously.

The other day, I was on a call and someone said, “Voters are looking for cues about a candidate.” I thought that was really insightful. Watch the video again — what cues do you get about Leach?

After three minutes you feel like you know him. Now, if you met him in person or watched him give a speech or already had an opinion of Leach and what you observed or thought doesn’t match with the video (in other words the video presents an inauthentic version of the candidate), that’s when campaigns get into trouble.  The other question is does Leach’s personality so evident here come across in the other aspects of his campaign?

In other words, can the campaign present a unified vision of itself to the public? Its a theme I’ve talked about before, ads are a great medium to communicate your message, emotion and personality, but its’ not enough to communicate it, the campaign or brand has to embody it too.

Personality is great, too often campaigns run from their candidates personality, offering a watered down version of what they think voters want (consumer brands do this too). But what voters (and consumers) want is authenticity, Apple is as extreme a brand identity as any mainstream brand, it seems to do well with buyers. This video is powered by personality, and that’s a good thing.

Simple and straightforward — Form follows emotion

December 10, 2013

This video is a great example of form following function. In fact, the form follows emotion.

While the old style mock school educational film is a classic style, in this case, it perfectly fits the theme. From the suffragettes to portraying Republicans as out of step, the style of the video perfectly reinforces not jus the message but the emotion.

Ok maybe it gets a little long, but still super clever and well done.


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