Posts Tagged ‘great ads’

Is Cool Enough?

June 30, 2009

These aren’t political ads, but I think there’s a lesson to be learned here.

Take a look at this Cannes award-winning ad (for fairness’ sake, I linked to the actual website where it ran rather than youtube). Now look at this ad, which was considered, but didn’t ultimately win (it’s about condoms, but don’t worry it’s work safe).

Which one better communicates the story of the product? The first one “Carousel” sure is neat and compelling (what’s going on?), and I wonder how they made it, but I don’t know if it makes me want to buy that TV. The story is interesting, but it’s random and doesn’t really connect to any core message. In my mind this video is cool, but ultimately ineffective. It offers a sugar-coating with no nutrition.

[Ok, I showed this video to my partner, Dan, and he made the point that he might not buy that tv, but it made him think that Phillips was cool, hip & cutting-edge, so there’s something more than sugar-coating. Still, putting nuts in your candy doesn’t make it nutritious.]

The second ad, the condom one, is clever, it tells a story and it intrigues me.  But more importantly, a condom ad told through a love story makes sense; I’ll actually remember it next time I’m shopping in Japan for condoms. It’s compelling (what is that counter?), but it connects to the product, too. In the world of advertising, that counts for more than simply “cool”.

(Digressing for a moment, both videos do a great job of showing a story with visuals only, no words.)

What’s my point? Not sure, maybe it’s this: creativity imaginatively delivered with no message is just as much of a problem as a message delivered with numbing repetition, but no imagination or creativity . Either may end up with a “win” (a campaign, an award) but don’t be fooled; neither should be considered effective advertising.

Something different…

June 24, 2009

You never hear a client say they want “the same” or “the familiar”. It’s always, “I want something different,” “Can we get something more… creative,” “I don’t want the usual political spots.” If everyone one is pushing for “different,” “creative,” “not the usual spot,” then why do we get so many spots that look alike?

Because different is hard. It’s so damned different. We like the familiar, it’s hard-wired into our brains. Before people were people, different was bad, different got you killed. That’s why today, different gets our attention.

Back in 2000, I saw these videos by Spike Jonze. He was supposed to make a campaign video for Al Gore for the convention.  In the end, the powers that be ended up making the same old video we’ve seen 1000 times before, and the Spike Jonze one was never seen (or at least not promoted). Take a look, tell me in the comments what you think. Personally, I think it’s brilliant — I see Gore as a person — goofy, yes, but with a family that loves him and that he loves intensely. It’s real and honest, too; funny, people thought he was the liar… if we could only show him as authentic… oh.

Look, the video quality sucks, the shots aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter — the story, the honesty, the emotion is there so we (or I) go with it and don’t care about those other things. Is it different?  Hell yes.

The video is in two parts. Take a look, would you have shown it at your convention? I would have.

Look, you can go too far with different, sure — mostly it’s because you’re trying so hard to be different, you’re not trying hard enough to be good. But there is a happy middle ground where different gets our attention and shows us something new, we just have to get used it. I guess the moral of the story is you have to be ready for different if you want it.

This Week’s Inspiration

June 18, 2009

I mentioned this ad in the GM post as one of my all time favorites. It was made several years ago, and I still marvel at it every time I watch it.

What do I like? Why does this ad excite me?

First, there’s the music, ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky,” so evocatively used here. The repetition of images — as Boris would say, “Guys, this is experience.” I know this guy, my friends are him — even if I didn’t know this guy before, I know him now.

The spot is exquisitely filmed and edited. The shots, which are the foundation, tell the story without the need for words or dialog; they are an almost perfect example of the mantra, show don’t tell. The editing doesn’t draw attention to itself, but it can’t be ignored; it’s perfectly timed to the music, the way the shots are layered. It’s neither frenetic nor slow.

This ad tells a story. A story of boredom, of longing.  And it tells that story with music and visuals, that’s it, thank you for playing.

Compare this ad with the Alzheimer ad. They both use visuals to tell a story, both are emotional (in different ways). But the pace and editing are almost in total contrast. The Alzheimer ad uses long, lingering shots, where this ad has quick repeating images layered across the screen. It shows there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to visual story telling.

Also consider this idea. It’s a car ad.  You never see the car (genre convention, show the car), yet you know exactly what the car is about, right? Do you need to know how fast it goes or what kind of fuel mileage it gets? Do you have to see it to want it? The form of the ad buttresses its function without hitting the viewer over the head with meaning, or CG’s or information. Next time you feel like adding that line of text to tell your viewer some piece of information, think of this ad. Ask yourself, can I convey that same idea by showing it?

Now excuse me, I’m going to watch this ad about 10 more times.  It’s so damned elegant and wonderful.

Welcome to Ad Nauseum

April 16, 2009

Welcome to Ad Nauseum. For a blog about political video and ads, that’s not such a creative welcome. Hopefully it’ll get better from here.

The story how this blog was inspired goes something like this: I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week discussing my new company, Rabin Strasberg Media, and what I thought we could add to the glut of political media.  In the course of our conversation, discussing videos and ads we liked and disliked, he said something like, “You know, you should write a blog about this stuff.”

My first reaction was, who would read a blog that I wrote?  Well, my mom — except she doesn’t even know that the internet is a series of tubes.  So I put that aside for a moment.

Then I thought, what would I say? Well, that part was a lot easier; I always have something to say about what I see out there — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and there’s a lot of ugly out there these days.

A last note: I’m not here to rip on people or their work, though I will certainly give an honest critique. Frankly, I want to be inspired, I want to be moved by what I see, but all too often I’m left either empty or shaking my head. Maybe this is my attempt to raise the craft of political media, to make ads everyone can be proud of.

I read this quote in the wonderful book on advertising, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.” Steve Hayden, who wrote the Apple 1984 ad, said, “If you want to be a well paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.”

Greatness is something we can all aspire to.


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