Archive for May, 2013

Being on-emotion

May 30, 2013

A friend sent this to me, with the following comment:

“Too long, but pretty awesome.”

I have to say, even though I could roughly guess what was coming from the intro (and what I know about Coke’s brand), I was still pretty moved in spite of myself.

Here’s yet another example of a video that tells the story of a brand. It doesn’t use facts and figures, doesn’t just tell us we’re all the same whether you’re Indian or Pakistani, it shows it. The joy of the people engaged in the video is both obvious and contagious.

Does Coke taste better than pepsi? Is it cheaper? Is it healthier than other drinks? Probably not (well except on the taste issue), but next time I’m in the super market I’m going to smile when I see that coke display. Maybe that means next time a Coke executive is testifying on the HIll about sugar in soft drinks or selling to kids, I might be more inclined to believe him because I like the brand.

That’s the power of an emotion, and it’s a power that “facts” can’t hope to challenge.

How does David beat Goliath?

May 23, 2013

Barbara Buono has an uphill battle, convincing New Jersey voters that popular Governor Chris Christie hasn’t done as good a job as people think. While Christie’s been up for a while Buono is spening $1m in the New York market (which isn’t that much in that market) with this ad.

The ad is professional, but it’s really not compelling. It picks up a little steam when :20 in when they show the picture of her dad with the sausage, but they don’t have the time or inclination to dwell there, rather they throw out hackneyed platitudes about pulling yourself up.

Here’s the thing … you’re trying to convince people of something they don’t believe, fine that’s the purpose of advertising –if people agreed with you, would you need to advertise? But when you’re facing Goliath, David is foolish to fight toe to toe. I sometimes talk about attrition warfare here, and that’s the strategy Buono is taking.

I’m getting a litte far afield from the ad istelf, but if the goal if this ad is to convince people that Christie has done a bad job, why would it? It’s a political he said/she said, Christie starts with the high ground, he has more resources, and Buono is charging her army in a frontal assualt.

What should she do? Maneuver, don’t fight him straight on, fight asymmetrically, hit Christie on an issue they don’t see coming or one that goes to the heart of his credibility. Throwing three charges against him is akin to saying nothing, it becomes political blah, blah, blah.   Maybe that issue doesn’t exist, then find something that people can hook into, something that resonates, something that’s emotional not rational (and especially not rational when people already disagree with you).

An ad like this works only if you have favorable terrain and equal or better resources.

It’s a safe ad, but when you’re fighting Goliath, playing it safe only plays to his game not yours.

Own your own story

May 22, 2013

Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor of New York City.

So there are a lot of things to like about the video. First of all, I love the message, I love how he ties his story of growing up to the story of a City. As a naitive New Yorker, his theme, that New York is moving awy from average middle class folks feels like it could powerfully resonate with a lot of people.

Emotionally I think the tone is right.

But… I question the decision to put the ‘appology’ so far into the video almost 2/3rds at 1:44). That’s the elephant in the room for Weiner. Right now that mea culpa is almost brushed off, then he’s sitting wife by his side (which was the most awkward part of the video).

But what if he made the appology and the sin a part of his story? What if he started with that, owned his mistke, but then turned it into part of his rationale for running… (It was embarrassing, I messed up, I was dumb, I hurt a lot of people, and let more people down. It would be easy to listen to the pundits and the tabloids, to not run, to save myself the embarrassment, but you know PUT MESSAGE & STORY HERE.)

You have to own your story, all the parts of it because if you don’t others will.

I have a saying, everything before the “but” is a lie or doesn’t matter: I really like you but…, You’re a great assest to this company, but…, you did a great job on that project, but…..

I think Weiner wants to shrug off the appology, wants to deflect the elephant in the room instead of embracing it (that’s a mixed metaphor or a poor one for sure). Ultimately I think that will do him in rather than help him.

This is a pretty good opening video, but….

 

Real is the new Real

May 14, 2013

Real emotions win. People can tell the difference between real and fake. That’s why actors get paid so much becayuse the best of them can convince us what they’re feeling is real.

This Target spot is interesting, highlighting Target’s investment in education in a very raw real way. They could have told you how much money they invest (in fact they do, though I can’t the life of me remember that number, can you), they could have told you how many students they help or why a college education is so important. In other words they could have stuck to the facts. Instead they focused on the emotion.

I’ve been re-reading the classic “Made to Stick,” there’s a point they make in the book: “Statisitcs are rarely meaningful in and of themselves. Statistics will, and should almost always be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number.”

What are you going to remember from this commercial?

A good story should connect the dots

May 8, 2013

Last time Terry McAufliffe ran for governor he lost the primary. I think I looked at his ads back then and thought they looked inauthentic.

He’s running again, no primary this time, are his ads any better?

This is one of those ads that tries to connect the dots, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to walk away thinking. I thought the first part about where he talks about starting a business was interesting, but then it veers into family and creating jobs. I’ve been slowly re-reading the classic book “Made to Stick.” In the chapter on Simple (one of the rules of SUCCESS), the say (wisely) that if you say three things you aren’t saying anything.

That’s kinda how I feel about this ad. It’s sort of a broad brush paint by numbers approach, that pretends to tell you something but really doesn’t say anything particularly interesting. They hit all the highlights for me, but don’t really tell me a story that puts all the pieces together. Is he a hard worker? Self starter? Family guy? How exactly does he know (other than a poll) that Viriginia wants good jobs? A good story can create a framework, something to unify those elements. A good story can be told either in the text or subtext, but this ad does neither, so I’m left just watching a bunch of blah, blah, blah.

Real honest to goodness authenticity (and we really mean it)

May 6, 2013

I talk a lot about authenticity here. That’s because the best stories, the most compelling storytelling has truth and authenticity at its’ core. It’s not always enough for something to be true, it also has to ring true. That’s a hard lesson to live by.. . I remember many years ago working on an ad, we put a number in there for some fact or another, the number was 100% abosultely true, but it was so large, it just felt… unbelievable. We ended up taking it out because it required too much of the viewer.

I’m all for pushing viewers, not catering to the lowest common denominator as so many ads (political and otherwise) do these days, but you also have to know your audience, and understand their mindset. Like I’ve said before, it’s a fine line between stupid and clever. 

(The Walmart video has several videos all about the same in message and emotion.)

Walmart and JC Penny, both trying to convey a mea culpa of sorts. Walmart of course trying to make themselves something other than the huge behemoth crushing local business and wages, a comapny that treats it’s employees as cheaply as its products. JC Penny fresh off trying to transform itself with Ron Johnson, who ran the Apple stores for so many years, facing falling stock prices and sales.

Both comapnies deserve credit for confronting the elephant in the room, and realizing that they have issues, that shouldn’t be ignored. The question about both of these ads are they authentic in any way?

Is JC Penny really sorry? Are they sorry for not listening or because their changes failed to draw more customers?

Is Walmart really the great place to work and shop they say it is? Just because they say it with happy music and happy customers (and employees) does that make it true?

There’s a story my mom tells… One day the phone rang, my dad answered. “Mr Strasberg,” the voice on the other line asked,”We’re calling for President Nixon….”

“Yes,” my dad answered unphased.

“Yes, we were hoping you could help us with a problem… We’d like you to help us make the President look truthful.”

“I see,” said my dad, “Well, that’s easy, if you want to make the President truthful, then have him tell the truth.”

This is the essential problem with both these ads, and all ads like these ones. The truth speaks for itself. Trust is earned, truth can’t just be created it has to be bought, not with money or air time, but with hard authentic work. There’s no short cut to truth except truth itself. I think both JC Penny and Walmart are going to find this lesson out the hard way.

 

 

The story matters

May 3, 2013

Sometimes you luck into a the story. Think Subway and Jared.

I’ve seen some articles of late saying union membership is down, and unions are talking to their own members not to the public.

Then I watch a video like this one from MLB and Bryce Harper, and I think why aren’t they telling this story, not this exact story, but stories like this. If unions have any symbolic power, its this story of the regular hard working man (or woman) trying to make a better life for his family. It’s a story as old as America, why aren’t unions tapping these stories at a time they need them the most?

What’s the point?

May 2, 2013

I’ve seen this Kevin Durant ad about 20 times in the last month. I think it’s really clever, it’s well acted (I love the mom’s response as she tugs at her wedding ring), it’s unexpected. I’ve watched it 20 times, but last night was the first night I realized it was for Spring PCS. Huh.

I talk about gimmicks a lot here. Here is a great example of when gimmicks fail.This is a well execucted ad and its a failure.

If the gimmick isn’t central to the product (whether its cell service or a candidate), then the gimmick gets remembered but the message gets lost.

 


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