Posts Tagged ‘emotional’

I’ll take a story with that burrito

September 16, 2013

This Chipotle video is the latest video to “go viral” — as of this writing it has over four million hits.

It’s worth watching too full of pathos and top notch storytelling (the animation is pretty clutch too, from the folks who create Morris Lessmore and his Flying Book & Numberlys). The video is three minutes long, and I’ve already watched it four or five times. Heck, the video isn’t even for the Chipotle per se, but a trailer for their new game!

I’m not going to break down all the reasons why I think this is a great video, either you get it or you don’t. But I do think there are some important lessons you can learn from this video when thinking about your videos or ads:

1. Story matters. They build a compelling story that’s not about the brand, but is precisely about what the brand stands for. A story that shows you their values.

2. Emotions matter. Related to that first lesson, this story is right on-emotion. Imagine a video that had the same message, but maybe it was a narrator with beautiful shots of fresh produce or some other genre appropriate video. It might get the message across, but would anyone watch? And more to the point would anyone remember or believe it?

3. Production Values Matter. Maybe the most important point I could make here.  We all have had clients ask us to produce a viral video, and when we ask how much they want to spend, the amount is usually less than you’d spend on an I-Pad.

Chipotle did fall into that trap. They didn’t say well, it’s only for the web, they produced a top-notch, story with top-notch production values, and I’m guessing they spent more than some people spend on their tv ads.

4. Your story matters. Chipotle is telling your their story (anti-corporate, fresh food, maybe even anti-establishment), but what they’re trying to do is resonate with your story? Are you anti-corporate, believe in fresh food, do you want to be a conformist your whole life? By reflecting your story in theirs, the create believers, they create fans. I’ll take 1 over 10 customers any day of the week.

I love seeing videos like this one. These ads and videos are why I write this blog. Chipotle could have fallen into a trap — hey, we’re just selling burritos, so let’s give ’em a video about how great our burritos are. Instead they told a compelling story that resonates and creates fans, not bad for the price of a burrito.

 

 

Always aim higher

August 29, 2013

A header like, “If you have a heart, this Wrigley gum commercial will make you cry,” set a pretty high bar, but also sets off my ok, I’m gonna call that bluff response. Well, the stupid fricking ad did indeed make me cry or the room got incredibly dusty as it climaxed.

Is the gum a bit of a macguffin here? Sure, it could have been anything, but staking out that space, telling an emotional story about a parent and a child, about sharing something in good times and bad, well that’s powerful. It’s too easy to say, well it’s just gum, we should talk about it’s flavor or it’s ability to solve a problem. Like this crappy gum ad I saw last night:

The Wrigley commercial for Extra gum goes to a higher place on the hierarchy — other gums are minty or clean your mouth, this gum you share and experience, this gum is about love and connection.

The downside here is that I’m not sure this brand of gum has enough of a pre-exisitng space in my brain to make an impression (what’s the brand name again). So an ad like this one for a brand that doesn’t have a position needs repetition in other mediums, it has to tell this same story of sharing again and again in a myriad of different ways (what about directions for making those Origami birds on the inside of each package or a Web site about creating your Wrigley moment).

Still it’s a great ad, and a good reminder that it’s not about the function of the product, but something more.

Never let ’em off the hook

April 30, 2013

Not sure why I wanted to show it, but my sone just did a report for school on change agents, and he got Jackie Robinson.

You know I wanted to like this ad a lot more than I did. I love the opening line, “Here’s to first…,” and I also love the New Era (they sell hats you know) tag, “Fly your own flag.”

I wanted to like this ad, in many ways it reminded of this Apple ad:

But where the Apple ad moved and inspired me, the New Era ad despite being well shot left me flat. Maybe it’s because it’s seems to be trying too hard, it had me on the hook at the beginning but then it loses. Somehow it feels like New Era doesn’t really have a point to make, the ad’s not really about being first nor about Flying your own flag. Where the Apple ad is dedicated to the “Think Different” proposition. What’s my walk away from the New Era ad? What am I supposed to feel? The ad doesn’t sufficiently guide me there and seeing the sign of Jackie Robinson park at the end feels less like a payoff and more like a cheat.

A different kind of gimmick

August 2, 2012

Wasn’t planning on writing about this ad, but I’m the middle of a great book, “Winning the Story Wars,” and it helped me focus my thoughts about the ad in a way that I thought was helpful:

I write a lot about gimmicks — ads that use a trick or device to get attention. When these ads work, the gimmick is on-emotion and in tune with the authentic story of the brand (or candidate).  When they don’t work, it’s often because the gimmick is just spitting on the table — it’s only about getting attention, and the emotional connection to the brand or message is non-existant.

This Cicilline ad uses a different kind of gimmick. It wasn’t clear to me until I read this from “Winning the Story Wars”:

The Trial of Gimmickry

SIN: Are you trying to make a quick emotional connection by putting all your eggs in the basket of nonsensical humor or high-intensity emotion?

SUCCESS: Or are you building emotional affinity around shared values – layering humor and emotional intensity on top of this solid foundation?

My first thought about the Cicilline ad (really, my second thought, my first thought was that the footage looks kinda bad) was that it didn’t earn the emotion it was seeking — telling stories about Cicilline coming to the aid of Rhode Islanders.  There were too many stories, and somehow they don’t resonate.  Reading the quote from Story Wars, it’s obvious to me now, this is another type of gimmick ad, though less obvious the the ones that rely on humor or some conceit. And to put it in the Story Wars framework, this ad is trying for high intensity emotion, but it’s not built on any foundation.

Look, I’m sure he helped all those people, and that’s great, but that’s his job isn’t it?  What makes these cases special or unique? Is Cicilline the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help people? Or is he an unpopular congressman, trying to bolster his image?

In some ways these ads show disrespect for the viewers. Look, all advertising is manipulative, but hopefully, it offers something more than the manipulation. The two olympic ads I showed yesterday earned their moment, when it gets dusty at the end of the Proctor and Gamble ad, it had worked to get me the viewer there, to get me invested in the story.

This ad, just those an old woman, a vet, a cancer survivor out there, trying to manipulate me without really having to try, it’s just going through the motions. They don’t invest in their story or characters, so I don’t invest my emotions in the spot. I’ve never thought of this emotional manipulation as a gimmick, but it is, and it fails big time here.

Emotion Wins

February 2, 2012

This is a Budweiser ad airing in Canada for the Super Bowl. I just have to say it’s a shame it’s not airing in the states, because it just might be the best beer commercial (or branding) I’ve seen. Not sure if Bud thinks Canadians are more cultured than Americans or just less interested in kicks to the groin or scantily clad women, but I think this ad despite it’s focus on hockey would be a winner in whatever market we it ran in.

Just because Americans don’t love hockey because this ad is so powerful emotionally it just plain works. Any weekend athlete can appreciate what those players felt playing that game under those circumstances.

It tells a great story about Bud too, it speaks to their values, and who their beer is for. You can’t do better than that.

Dueling Ads Hawaii

February 2, 2012

Two strange ads up in the Hawaii Democratic Primary…

So Ed Case has regular folks saying they’re going to vote for him then thanks voters for thinking about their choice.  I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something off about the ad. It’s shot in a documentary style (shaky camera moves that hint at capturing real life), but the people in it feel somewhat staged. Were they given lines to read or were the lines authentic? I can’t tell, I wonder if voters will be able to tell.  A third party validator is only as believable as they’re credible.  I don’t find these people particularly credible, but maybe that’s me.

A couple other choices I question: 1. The lack of music leaves the spot feeling rather flat, there’s no emotion too it, and that comes off in the delivery of the lines. 2. If these are real people, why not identify them?  Identifying people who are speaking helps because it makes them seem more credible, they’re real people, it’s not just some mechanic in an ad, but John Doe who happens to be a mechanic.

One element of the ad I do like is the frame of a choice. Ed Case, by acknowledging people have a choice (maybe a hard one for them) comes off as empathetic and understanding — maybe he gets it.

Mazie Hirono’s ad on the other hand decides to turn back the clock and run like it’s 2008 or 2006 or any other even numbered year George W Bush was president. Really are we still running against Bush policies?  I know it’s a Democratic primary, but somehow this ad seems out of step or at least out of date. I’m sure there must have been some polling on this (these) issue, but it just comes off as odd to me.  (And, yes, I get she’s trying to frame her Democratic credentials against the more conservative Ed Case, but it’s still feels like a throwback.) Do Democrats have to run against Bush to prove their liberal? When does that stop?

Also what’s with the two “regular” people saying her name, what’s the deal with that? They know her name? I kept waiting for them to come back and say something or anything more, it just seemed like a dangled promise that there was something else there.

So who wins this round? I’m not sure. Both ads strike me as slightly weird. Hirono’s ad has higher production values and music, but it’s about as cliche as it gets stylistically, there’s nothing interesting about it. Ed Case has a odd mockmentary flavor and is flat, but I think probably works slightly better despite it’s lack of credibility.

Cats and Dogs, Coke and Pepsi

August 4, 2011

I know I’ve said it before, but I love it when consumer brands go negative. First, it serves as an important signal to people who claim only political ads play in the mud and bemoan negative ads, that negative ads are all around us. Secondly, it’s usually an interesting to see the approach that consumer brands take as they go after each other — often to less effect than negative political ads.

Here are two ads for Pepsi going directly after Coke:

What I find interesting about the approach of these ads is that they aren’t taking on Coke on the “issues” or the “facts.” There is no price comparison or taste comparison here, these ads are making a purely emotional appeal.  “Summer time is pepsi time.”

I just started reading a promising book, “Storytelling: Branding in Practice,” and the author makes the following point, which puts the Pepsi approach into an eye opening context:

“The brand story gradually becomes synonymous with how we define ourselves as individuals and the products become the symbols that we use to tell the story our ourselves.” 

These pepsi ads are trying to tell a story about the brand that is Pepsi.

Pepsi = fun, partying, summer, hip. If you identify with those qualities or want to identify with those qualities, then you ought to be drinking Pepsi, just like Santa and our friend the polar bear. Pepsi goes after Coke by directly trying to redefine their own symbols (Santa and the polar bear), by showing them crossing the line for Pepsi it makes it ok for “you” to cross that line too, it also suggests that coke is on the other side of the hip/fun/cool line.

What does Summer represent? A break from school or responsibilities, a time to let lose, have an adventure, to live life. If you want to embody those qualities drink Pepsi,  or maybe more poignantly if you think you’re a fun, hip, cool person and want others to see you that way, you better be drinking Pepsi.

While I appreciate the jab at Coke in this way, and I’m sure it has created a lot of buzz, I’m not sure if it’s an effective attack. Much like the McCain “Celebrity Ad” reinforced Obama’s message as it sought to undermine it, and was ultimately ineffective for that reason, these ads seek to subvert the strength of it’s opponent, but I think it actually reinforces it. Sure Santa and the Polar Bear switch to Pepsi, but we all know they belong to Coke, and frankly the execution of the ads, doesn’t really make me (though maybe the younger viewers it was intended to reach have a different reaction) believe the switch. It feels all too forced and contrived.

Bang for your buck

June 28, 2011

Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad attacking Obama on the economy.  $20 million dollars a year and a half before the elections is a lot of money to spend.  So I figured their ad would be worth a look:

Wow. $20 million dollars and you get an ad that starts “These are the facts…” that was the line of the first ad I had to write all by myself (actually it went “The facts” just to be historically accurate) and that was 11 years ago.

I find this ad less than compelling.  In some ways it misses what’s a trademark of of most conservative advertising — emotion. There’s no vitriol here, no anger, well, no nothing… Even the facts are kinda boring, and while they try to contrast “the facts” with Obama’s statements, not sure the juxtaposition works.

Now I have a friend, who’s opinion I respect, who thinks it doesn’t matter how good or bad the ad is. His reasoning is $20m is a lot of money focusing people on Obama and the dismal economy, and I think he has a point…, but still come on, was this really the best they could do?

I guess if you hate Obama already this’ll get you more angry, but if you’re on the fence, is this going to do anything? I don’t think so…. People already know they economy stinks, and they’ve put it into their Obama calculation.  Is this ad about the debt ceiling vote? I’m not sure, but this ad just feels kinda mushy to me, it may be on-message, but it’s not on-emotion. It doesn’t really make me angry, it doesn’t push any emotional hot buttons or at least doesn’t push them in an effective way (I suppose the Obama “shovel ready” line is supposed to make him seem out of touch, but it feels oddly out of context the way it’s presented here).

$20 million is a lot to spend, but to me this is just another example of spending a lot of money to air something, when they should spend more than $12k to produce the ad.

The first videos of 2012 Presidential election

April 4, 2011

So we have the first announced candidate of 2012. Want to guess who?  No not him, not him, not her, not him… It’s the one and only President Barak Obama.

This video feels a little like the Time Magazine person of the Year, when the cover was a mirror, the person of the year is… YOU! Yeah, how’d that go over for Time? Ok, that’s a little rough. But this video is missing something (and I’m not talking about the President —  interesting, he doesn’t make an appearance in the video kicking off his campaign)…, not sure what it is. But it’s not exactly, what’s the word, compelling.  It’s too early for a sense of urgency, I get that, but this feels somewhat somnolent (SAT word of the day, had to look it up).  Maybe they don’t want to invoke the passion of 2008 because they’re scare it can’t measure up, maybe they think it’s too early, maybe there’s some reason I’m not clever enough to guess, but in any case, there’s nothing here that grabs me, I’d be interested to hear what true believers feel.

This video kinda leaves me missing the Tim Pawlenty Michael Bay themed videos which is something I never thought I’d say. Maybe we can split the difference going forward?

Here’s an Obama parody video

I liked the “Morning in America” feel to the open and how it seemed like an Obama ad at first, unfortunately, the rest of the video is less parody and more political rhetoric. There are probably a lot of things you can hit Obama for, playing golf, meeting with Paul McCartney and filling in an NCAA bracket seem petty and mean spirited, not funny. And I found it slightly disingenuous to use Tea Party protests as a sign that Obama is dividing us (as opposed to said Tea Partiers and radical governors taking away the rights of workers).  Now, maybe this video wasn’t intended for me (it certainly wasn’t), but I doubt it would work with someone in the middle, maybe an independent voter who voted for for Obama in 2008, but voter Republican in the last election.

Even the Unicorn (which I liked) at the end felt a little like sour grapes. Is there an argument to be made that Obama sold America a bill of goods and hasn’t delivered, without a doubt (I think even some Democrats feel that way). Did this ad make that case? Not even close, it could have used the parody to make an unexpected case, to engage independents and even Democrats before springing it’s trap. By going for the low hanging partisan fruit they missed the juicer bits.

It’s the story stupid…

February 7, 2011

Super bowl ads. Everyone’s talking about ’em. On twitter, I linked to this article, “Super Bowl TV Spots (Versus All The Rest of the Year).” The gist was basically, yeah Super Bowl ads have a larger audience, but the quality of our work shouldn’t depend on the audience that’s going to see it. It’s summed up with, “Just seems to me that a TV spot is a TV spot. TV, radio, any media buy is a public appearance for which we ought to put on our Sunday best, no matter how large our congregation is.”

Super Bowl ads are known for their spectacle, for their over the top quality, but the ads that I always seem to like are the same ones I like the rest of the year, it’s the ones that tell a story and connect with me emotionally.  Seriously which ads to do you remember over the years?

Ad Age just did an all-time Super Bowl ad poll, it came down to Apple’s 1984 spot and Coke’s Mean Joe Greene ad, according the reader’s poll Mean Joe Greene crushed Apple’s ad.

(Here’s a link to all the ads polled: My favorites NFL “Crazy” & Reebok “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker,” Monster, “When I grow up,” and EDS “Herding Cats”– though it’s a little too much of a gimmick, I find it amusing).

I’ve never understood the appeal of the 1984 ad, though of the spectacle ads it does have a compelling narrative and emotional element (the drive to break free from Big Brother). But the Mean Joe ad, come on? Just watching it now, I was almost in tears. “Hey kid, catch…”

That brings us to this year’s ads which has the usual blend of stupid beer ads that aren’t funny the other 364 days of the year, the offensive — Groupon, the unremarkable…, can’t remember any of those, and the spectacle — Coke & Audi, which were all right, but will probably fall into the unremarkable category before too long.

So which ads did I think were the best. To me one stood out:

I don’t know if this ad was targeted to parent’s but it sure felt real to me. Another company might have gone for over the top, might have tried to make it funnier by making it more absurd, and they would have lost the reality of the moment. Absurd is fine if it’s real, but when it becomes surreal, it needs some element to ground it back to reality.  This ad feels so true to life to me, and it’s so well executed, down to the music, the way the child rushes past his dad at the end, and the surprised reaction at the end.

Does an ad like this sell cars? I would say yes. It’s clever and honest, and somehow sympathetic, and I believe it makes VW seem clever, honest and sympathetic. They could have shown the car racing around corners, but that wouldn’t hook me the way this ad does. That’s the power of emotion.

Along those lines the other ad that caught my attention was the Eminem Chrysler ad. A paean to Detroit (and America frankly), I think it’s a powerful ad, that appeals to that underdog spirit in all of us. I love the script, again eschewing talking about the car, the car is a symbol for something more powerful, and if you want to connect with that story, if you want that story to become your story, buying the car is a way of broadcasting that to the world.  I love the end tag, “Imported from Detroit,” simply brilliant.

Here’s my problem with it, do you need Eminem in it? Why not have him narrate the entire spot? The spot is great for 3/4 then it falls apart at the end. Why does he get out of the car? What’s the deal with choir?  It’s one of those commercials that had me, then loses me at the end. Don’t get me wrong it’s better than 90% of the car commercials out there because of the script and the music, but it ends up falling flat at the end.  Too bad.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the negative ads of the night…. What, wait you missed them?

How about this one:

The ad is obvious swipe at Apple from the 1984 reference to the white ear buds. I find the interesting, but not credible. The ad is trying to turn Apple from the rebel fighting Big Brother into Big Brother. But ultimately I’m not sure that I believe the argument coming from Motorola. I’m not sure what people think of Motorola, but rebel isn’t really one of the first ten themes that come to my mind.  So ultimately while I like the message aikido going on here, I’m not sure it can be successful without some other validation.

The other spot that I recall going negative was this one:

A lot of spectacle, pretty funny and well executed, but ultimately it felt like they were too clever. Audi is trying to be luxury for those who don’t want luxury or something like that. That might be the right position for them, and this ad communicates it well, but there’s not emotional component to it other than the basic message. Compare this ad to the Chrysler ad or the VW ad, which one moves you more?

Still, it’s good to see brands going after each other at the Super Bowl, gets me excited for 2012.

Super Bowl ads remind me of big Hollywood blockbusters, full of sound and fury but ultimately as forgettable as Transformers or X-Men. The best blockbusters, like the best ads are the ones that focus the sound and fury in service of an emotion and a message. The best way to do that is to tell a story. The best ad this year was probably the least expensive to shoot, the same thing was true of my favorite ad from last year.  You can be simple and powerful if you focus on story and emotion instead of spectacle and being clever.


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