Posts Tagged ‘Genre’

Finding new turf to play on

September 6, 2013

Send to me by a friend, I thought this spot was a nice compliment to the Wrigley gum spot I looked at a couple of posts ago.

Beer commercials run the gambit from silly & offensive (most) to sentimental and emotionally overwrought. What I like about this commercial from Guinness (apart from the unexpected ending )is that it’s telling a story about the viewer. If you’re the kind of guy who would use a wheelchair for a couple hours to play basketball with your friend who has to use a wheelchair, then you’re the kind of guy who drinks Guinness beer.

You can buy a beer because of the taste or you can buy a beer because the story of the brand matches your story — or at the least it matches who you want to be or how you want to be seen by others.

Guinness gets that, and in telling this story they’re not competing with other brands on taste or cost, their playing the game on different turf.

Best of the Night

February 6, 2012

I’ve been writing this post in my head since last night, but I’m still not sure I got it, but sometimes it’s more important to dive in than to dither in your thoughts. I started with the positive, here’s what I liked last night:

OVERALL

Dot.coms are dead, long live the car ads. Car companies dominated the buys last night.

I thought the ads were pretty “eh”, there were some good ones, but nothing that stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Consumer brands not afraid to go negative… Chevy, Samsung, Pepsi all had negative ads up.

THE BEST 

Probably the ad that people either loved or hated was “Halftime in America,” the Chrysler ad narrated by Clint Eastwood. I loved it. Yes, it was derivative of last year’s ad with Eminen. Yes, it was too long and sometimes too overwrought.  Of all the ads tonight, this was the one that I had a visceral reaction to.  I watched the game with my wife (who is a blast to watch football with, each play elicited a shriek or gasp of concern), despite backtracking this morning, immediately after the ad she turned to me and said, “That makes me want to buy an American car” — isn’t that the point?

Look, you can break this ad down in a lot of ways, but at the end of the day, I loved it because it was on-emotion and it connected with me at that level — and hell, I’m probably not even the target audience. Some called it the best political ad of 2012, as it harkens back to “Morning in America,” it acknowledges the best in us and speaks to American pride and spirit.  Chrysler = Detroit = America. And really is there any voice more soulful than Clint Eastwood.

An interesting entry from Hyundai. I really liked this ad as well (this was my wife’s favorite). Not as great as the Chrysler ad, but I thought it was an interesting framing for a company that people don’t really have a story for. I’ve never thought much about Hyundai as car company, but the idea that “they try harder,” that they’re in it together, that they keep working through problems is a great identity for any company.

My problem with an ad like this is, will people accept it? I have no reason not to accept it, but just because they say it doesn’t make it true. What’s the proof? I wish Hyundai would follow up with more ads along these lines, show me ways that the company has overcome problems, instead they followed up with this ad:

Funny and clever yes. On message and on-emotion…, not so much. How does this ad fit in with Hyundai’s message in the Rocky ad? It doesn’t seem to. Maybe it works as a way to get people to remember to Hyundai, but I didn’t even remember who this ad was for until I went back and looked.  I laughed at this ad, it was good entertainment, but not a great ad. In a way, this ad is a good representation of the ads last night, some nice entertainment, but nothing that was a great ad.

The Best ad that didn’t run in the US

I already talked about this ad. But thinking more about it, it reminded me of the old Bud slogan, “This Bud’s for you.” Bud was the drink for the everyman, for the unrecognized heroes out there, who do their jobs in quiet dignity. This ad harkens back to that tradition, and I think it would translate to America, it’s a shame Bud wasted their time with ads about Prohibition and partying through the ads, rather than this ad which is far more effective.

Ads my Kids like

Asher really liked this Coke ad.

It was funny, the polar bears are iconic coke messengers, but like a lot of ads tonight I think the humor gets in the way of emotion.  It’s funny, but not sure it’s really about Coke.

Owen’s favorite ad was the much anticipated Volkswagen “Dog” ad:

It was a funny ad, and while the epilogue was random, it made for a nice connection with last year’s ad.  I liked the genre busting that I saw in car ads last night, this ad led the way putting a story of desire for the car ahead of the attributes of the car.  It was funny and clever, but at the end of the day, it didn’t make me like volkswagen any more than I had before watching the ad.  I guess I agree with the guy in the bar, I liked the authenticity of the Vadar kid better.

Ads that people I respect liked

Really it was just this ad from Fiat. A couple of people who I really respect told me this was the best ad of the night, while I respect them…, they’re wrong…

I think this is a good ad — provocative and interesting. It tells a little story and is surprising, all good things. But I feel like the scope of the ad, the emotion it’s trying connect with (desire) is just not that big, it’s low hanging fruit. Compare the emotion of the Chrysler ad to this one, and this one feels small in comparison. Still it’s well executed and crisp, and does a great job of being on-emotion.

Fair or Foul?

January 30, 2012

Romney is coming out swinging against Gingrich with a new ad attacking him for ethics violations.

It’s a pretty hard hitting ad, reminding voters that Newt has a past and not a pretty one. It also goes to Newt’s principles and values, framing him as a hypocrite.  It’s an effective charge because it comes not from the campaign itself, but it comes from a third party, a trusted unbiased source.

This approach has stirred some controversy as NBC and Tom Brokaw have objected to the use of use footage in the ad. It’s not the first time this type of issue has come up, and I have to say it seems disingenuous of NBC to object to the ad.  Look, Brokaw said it, he said it to make a point, to get ratings, to report the news, whatever the reason, it a part of the public record, and I think it’s entirely fair for Romney to use it in an ad. It’s one thing if it’s not true or if they edited it to make it appear that Brokaw was saying something other than what he actually said on the air. But that’s not the case here.

For NBC  or Brokaw to cry about it now is sanctimonious bull. Brokaw claims this use compromises his role as a journalist, how is that exactly? Did he not mean what he said? Or does he regret saying it?   There’s no implication that NBC or Brokaw endorsed the campaign (and it’s not like news organizations don’t endorse candidates anyway) or in anyway said it other than to report the news.  In fact by using the motif of the tv screen (a common element of the negative ad genre) it makes it pretty clear this is a political ad — the Romney campaign didn’t need to present the news report like this, but doing so, is really going out of their way to make this look like an ad rather than try to fool the viewer into thinking this is an actual “unbiased” news report they’re watching.

If Brokaw or NBC believe this is mudslinging then why did they report it this way initially? It’s factual and effective precisely because they present the clip unedited and without commentary.

It’s the type of ad where the execution stays out of the way of the message, and while it’s not breaking new ground, my best guess is that it’ll be pretty effective at reminding people what they don’t like about Newt.

 

On a lighter note

June 24, 2010

A while back I posted a video parody of a new cast.  I talked a little about cliche, genre, and the the uses and limits of shorthand.  This parody of a political ad obviously makes good use of that shorthand.

As you watch the political ads roll out of the meat grinders this political season, look for those cliches, and think how would you have done it differently?  How could you surprise your audience?  How could you use their expectaions to your advantage?

Still, this is pretty funny.

A day late and a dollar short

February 16, 2010

Super Bowl ads are usually high in entertainment and gimmicks, but low in effectiveness and message.  In other words they make me laugh, but they don’t do much to help me remember the product they’re selling.  Here check out this list of best Super Bowl ads from ad age.  There are a lot of laughs, but how many of those laughs are connected to the brand message?  How many make you want to use the product or even have some relevant link to the product they’re selling?

And there’s this:

It tells a story, it sells a message.  It’s elegant and not overblown — it cuts across expectation for Super Bowl ads, it’s quiet where most are loud, and simple where most are frenetic.

Compare it with this ad for Microsoft Bing (not a Super Bowl ad):

What is search overload?  What is a decision engine?  What does it have to do with folks riffing stream of consciousness? What does it have to do with Bing?

Now Google needs no introduction to most internet folks, but still this ad is about brand storytelling.  It cements the idea of Google as a part of our lives, even as our lives change, and we remember it because it tells the oldest story of all: Boy meets Girl.

With you never a quickie, always a longie…

February 1, 2010

A classic line from the classic movie “Love at First Bite.” No idea if it still holds up, but when I was 10 it was really funny.  That was a long way to introduce a quick post.  I can across this video the other day:

It’s a brillant parody of genre, in this case the news genre.  I started thinking about the gimmicks, tricks, & shortcuts we use in political ads — especially the negative ads: Grainy B&W footage of your opponent, the music, the headlines in negative (white text on black copy — scary).

Genre is a funny thing because those conventions are helpful, they’re a shorthand, they let people know what to expect, what’s coming, they save time (and words) by communicating a lot in a simple image or sound.  But genre is also a trap, it’s so easy, and readily recognizable that it can quickly become cliche.

Again cliche can be helpful sign to folks, and as Magnum P.I. once said, “Cliches are cliches because they’re true.” When I write, I try to be careful about not using cliche’s, or at least if I use them I hope they’re just a place holder for a more original construction.

It’s the same thing with ads, but still cliche’s are so damned easy and so damned safe, pre-approved if you will.

But the problem is exactly that, cliche is familiar your audience doesn’t have to pay attention or the cliche has lost its meaning after having been used, and used, and over used again and again and again.  You can use cliche to surprise your viewer, to break their guessing machine, as the Heath brothers say in their wonderful book, “Made to stick,” and get their attention.

Like Ned Lamont and the messy desk or this ad from Michael Steele:

The next time you find yourself falling into cliche think is there a non-cliche way to write this line, film this shot, bring up this graphic.  Sometimes the cliche is the easiest, most efficient way, but we should all try harder.

It’s a cliche to end a piece on cliche with a cliche, so I’ll spare you that cliche at least.

Best of the Decade #3 – #1

December 30, 2009

And now we’re at the end of the line.

I want to say, these choices are highly subjective.  These are my favorite spots, in making the list I tried to balance out affect with effect — essentially form  (how it was shot, written, put together) with function (how well it delivered a message, feeling, story).  I think that’s one point I’ve made over and over again here, that it’s not enough to have one over the other.  An ad has to to have a message it’s delivering, but to just deliver message these days is not enough, you need something else, whether that’s story, emotion, or personality (kind of a combination of those two elements), something that’s authentic to your brand.

“Herding Cats” or the Cadbury “Gorilla” deliever personality in droves, but they ultimately don’t connect to what they’re trying to sell.

By the way, I tried to come up with a list of my favorite political ads of the decade, but there are so many ads, and not many places that compile such things, in addition to the fact that many of them are no longer on youtube.  Maybe I’ll try to post a couple if I can find them.

Now, our #3:

The one that started it all for iPod (less the original ad that I profiled in an earlier post).  I love the simple expression of information: “iPod,” “Mac or PC,” Apple logo.  Did you need more to want to go out and buy one?  Did you need someone to tell you, digital music player? How about holds over 1000 songs? (For a contrast check out this funny video by Microsoft Marketing folks, what if Microsoft made the ipod.)

You don’t need more to know this is the hippest, stylish,  most fun device around.  A good reminder ads don’t need to be jammed full of information to make their point.

#2

My dark horse choice, but this is the only ad on the list that made me want to go out and actually buy the product, that’s pretty impressive these days.  Again, it’s a genre buster, a video game ad that doesn’t show the video game.  In a way, it gets to the point of why we play video games cause we want to believe they’re real.  It’s the reality of the fantasy.

This ad brings a fantasy world to life (reminds me of how I felt as an eight year old when I first saw the Star Wars trailer), in a very real way. In fact it’s grounded in reality, the acting is very good, the style feels like the interviews from “Band of Brothers.” It feels like a documentary, which makes the unbelievable aspects of it more acceptable, you suspend disbelief because it’s so grounded in reality.

And, again, there’s no talk of how much it costs or how many levels, no shots of the game or all the features.  I didn’t know anything about “Halo,” this commercial just throws you into the world no explanation necessary, and you’re drawn into it.  It’s compelling and real.

There’s a whole series of these ads, I’d recommend you check them out on youtube.

#1

No surprise to anyone who knows me, I mentioned this one back in June as an ad that inspires me.  It has all the elements I’ve mentioned before, all in a package that is executed perfectly.  It’s unexpected — we don’t know what it’s selling until the very end, and then we barely see the car. It’s experience, I know this guy, I have friends like him, I’ve been him.  It’s compelling, it shows and doesn’t tell.  It’s stylish and visually interesting.  The music is great and informs without distracting.

This ad is a near perfect mix of form and function, each one working together to inform and support the other, and that’s how it should be.

Happy new year to everyone.  2010 offers a year of political ads and a whole new slate of issue ads.

Best of the Decade # 6 – #4

December 28, 2009

After a brief Christmas break, it’s back to my blogging.

Now up Six through Four.  Nine through six were all amazing ads, but had some faults to them, as we get closer to the top of the list, these ads are not only brilliantly executed, but form and function combine to present the message in a compelling way.

#6

You can be groundbreaking in form — movies like Star Wars, the Matrix, fall into this category.  New technology, new ways of doing things.  You can also be groundbreaking within a genre.  I’ve talked about this before with car ads.  Think about the Saturn ad that sits at #7, a car ad that doesn’t show the car, inconceivable. This ad a lot of these ads take the genre and turn them on their head, computer ads that don’t tout specs, car ads that don’t show the car, and then there is this ad:

A beauty ad that shows you the truth behind beauty ads.

What’s wonderful about this ad isn’t the execution, but the concept.  It subverts beauty all beauty ads while building up the Dove brand.  Every time you see one of it’s competitors ads, you can’t help but think of this one, at least I can’t help it.  By being the first one into the space, Dove owns it in consumer’s minds (read the classic book “Positioning” for more on this theory), everyone else is just fighting for second place.  Dove becomes the brand that cares about women, cares enough to be truthful, and honest, imagine pitching the concept to the Dove executives, I can imagine the looks that passed between the executives.

But this strategy and its execution move Dove from just another beauty product, a commodity if you will, to something special, it now has personality for lack of a better word, and so it differentiates itself not by features but by emotion.

#5

This ad directed by Spike Jonze falls into the same genre busting template.  It’s all about emotion, about a feeling of a brand.  I admit I’m probably ranking this one higher than it deserves, but it’s just so damned well made.  The shots, the music, the POV (point of view shot) of the lamp looking into the house, watching the new lamp, while it sits hunch over in the rain.  As Boris would say, “Guys this is film.”

I like the unnamed guy at the end making his appearance, breaking the forth wall, and calling the audience on it’s connection to the inanimate lamp, but I have trouble with connection to Ikea…, unboring? Ok.  Don’t know what happened to this campaign, and I don’t remember much from Ikea after this ad, but this one is a mastercraft in film making and storytelling.  You’re never told to feel sorry for the lamp, the lamp never voices it’s sadness, but you’re made to feel it nonetheless, that’s brilliant storytelling.  Jonze leads us, but our minds fill in the gaps. adding story and emotion.

This ad is the ultimate form over function, but it’s about as good as form can get.

#4

Another great ad from VW, and another genre buster.  You see the car at the end, but it’s wrecked. That’s a pretty bold choice in a car ad.

This commercial is about shock value.  You don’t see the accident coming (isn’t that why it’s an accident), so it puts you in the mind of the characters, to quote Boris again, “Guys, this is experience.” The banter at the beginning lulls you, you don’t where this is going, a beer commercial maybe?  It breaks our guessing machine, gets our attention, and then bam, surprises us.  Remember negative emotions are easier to burn into our primate brains than positive ones (I still have this sinking feeling everytime I cross a railway track because of the Coyote and Road Runner).

I tend to discount shock value, comparing it often to spitting on the table, but in this case it works.  The shock is directly related to the message.  Quick who makes the safest cars…?

You probably said Volvo, know for their safety. How to break that link with consumers, to dislodge the first one into that space?  I don’t know if VW replaces Volvo as the safest car in my mind, but it certainly enters the conversation after this ad.  Sure it’s a stunt, it’s shocking, but it works. To me that’s effective.

GM Re:Invent

June 5, 2009

While I’m not sure if this ad falls within the mission statement of the blog, with all the issues around government ownership of GM, I imagine the audience for this ad is as much policy makers as consumers.

That’s a rationalization.  The reality is that I really wanted to review this ad for two simple reasons: 1) it’s not often that I see an ad that surprises me and makes me say wow; and 2) this ad surprised me and made me say, wow.

Reading some of the comments on Advertising Age, I thought I was crazy — most of the  comments were along the lines of this blog post: the ad misses the mark, its not going to change anything,  there’s nothing new here, how does this help GM?

When I showed it to Nora my wife, she had the same reaction as me, “wow.”

So maybe I’m not crazy or maybe we’re just a perfect match.

Form (on a scale A-F): A-

Ads, like movies fall, into genres — a series of conventions: stylistic, subject, sometimes legal requirements.  Think of beer ads or prescription drug ads or hell, while we’re on the subject, political ads or car ads.  Each one might be unique, but they also tend to be similar in many ways not related to product.

Breaking convention can be genius, like this Volkswagen ad (one of my all time favorite ads) or disaster (no examples of those off the top of my head).  I think this ad pushes the bounds of the car ad genre, plays with your expectations, and surprises the viewer with images and voiceover that are at times literal and at times unexpected and lyrical.

I find the images compelling: the runner with the prosthetic leg, the bridge with the sun glaring through, the house being built.  There’s something iconic about the images, though they’re not the usual iconic images.  They speak to resolve (the tattered flag in the hurricane), to toughness.  It’s America, but not the America we’re used to in car commercials.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the copy.  I think this is an incredibly smart and well written ad, conversational in tone, yet conveying important information. “There was a time eight brands made sense, not anymore.” It’s simple and direct; you don’t need to understand branding and marketing to understand what they’re saying.

I also love the quality of the narrator’s voice, not the usual voice of God in car commercials, but strong and matter of fact.

Function (on a scale A-F): A-

Here’s where I think the naysayers are missing the point of this ad.  It’s not trying to sell cars per se, it’s trying sell GM.  Why is that important? Because I think consumer faith in GM is low.  Who would want to buy a car from a dying company that makes crappy cars to begin with?

Watching this ad, I want it to be true.  Odd, right?  I’m not a car guy, I didn’t grow up worshiping at the alter of the American car, yet this commercial taps into something.  Maybe it’s the Hero’s Journey quality: the hero (GM), beaten and humiliated by hubris, must start again, from nothing.  He must rebuild himself, but in this new birth he finds humility and strength he didn’t know he had to create something greater and more meaningful than he had before. Think of the end of “An Officer and A Gentleman”:  Mayo, broken by the death of his best friend, must face his demons one more time before becoming the officer and gentleman that the title promises (thanks to ““The Writer’s Journey,” for the example — a great guide into the hero’s journey for those who dare not brave Joseph Campbell).

Is that too much from one car commercial?  I’m not sure it is.

This ad sets the stage for that re-birth, the RETURN from the dead into the world of the living.

While I did ask myself, is any of this true?  I quickly decided I’m not sure if that matters yet.  I want it to be true, which is enough for now.  It’s up to GM to make good on the promise it’s made here.  A key element to any commercial is honesty and truth. This commercial starts with “Let’s be honest.” And there is an honesty here.  Admitting mistakes of the past is a big deal for any company and it makes me more likely to believe what they have to say after that.

Final Grade (on a scale A-F): A

Why an A?  Well, I added a little extra for effort.  The ad, while not groundbreaking in execution, is honest and very well crafted.  It delievers information in an emotional way.

The ad helps GM to frame their own :60 story outside of the media.  They’re not a company in Chapter 11 (“The only chapter we’re focused on is chapter 1”);  Its a mythic story about a company that was too out of step, too big, and too proud, a company that failed and now sees its sins, a company that is striving to reinvent itself.  That’s a powerful story to my mind.

It’s a story that touches on patriotism and the strength of the American character, it touches on the epic, the Hero’s Journey, and it touches on the angst we all feel in these changing times — facebook, twitter, terrorism, a changing economy, jobs being outsourced, etc.

Of course, the proof will be in the pudding: is this a hoax or real?  I don’t know, but I do know it got me curious to see what GM does next, which is something I would not have said before watching this commercial.


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