Posts Tagged ‘visual storytelling’

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.

Telling your story

November 9, 2010

Not a lot of political ads these days huh.  While my posting my slow down here, I’m still pretty active on twitter, posting things that I find interesting.  You can check out the feed over on the top right of this page.

Why did I post this ad from Hovis? Adage reported that it had won “[the] Institute of Practitioners in Advertising awards, the U.K. ad industry’s prestigious effectiveness prizes.” Most effective ad, huh, well that’s interesting, because for political ads it’s all about effectiveness.

This ad is visual story telling at it’s best. Through all the changes, the bread is constant.  It’s patriotic (if you’re British) and it also harkens back to better days (in spite of the conflict those days brought).  Hovis could have told you they’ve been making their bread for 122 years, they could have said it was made with such and such ingredients (or which out such and such), they could have used stats and CG, but they tell a simple a boy getting a loaf of bread, and bringing it home.  The gimmick works here because it connects the with the important elements of the brand.  The gimmick works because it tells a story. And story resonates.


My weekend viewing

August 16, 2010

Getting off politics for a brief moment. I came across this pretty cool video this weekend.

I’ve mentioned Radio Lab before as something that inspires me (sort of a combination between “This American Life” and “Science Friday” on NPR).

There are some beautiful shots here, and I really appreciate that they don’t slow down to explain the concept. Too often in ads, there’s a feeling that the audience is too stupid to get the concept, so we over explain.  I think it’s really the opposite that’s true, the audience gets it, if it is gettable, when it’s not understandable, it’s usually the concept that’s not working.

Ad Infinitum: Hard to believe

July 26, 2010

I think these quick ad checks are going to become more common as there are more ads out there, and my time to post becomes less and less.

Great ad in my opinion.  Hard to believe it’s only 30 seconds, it tells such a powerful story.  Nice visuals, good juxtaposition of the CG’s on the screen adding depth and the voices of the people. It’s a small thing, but a big pet peeve, but I hate it when the words on the screen match the voice over.  Here they complement each other, and the one time they match (over Foley’s line) works well — the exception that proves the rule.

This ad reminds me of the famous Ted Kennedy ad attacking Milt Romney in 1994.  It always great when you can turn your opponents strength into a weakness.

Amazing what you can do with a little creativity

March 1, 2010

Sometimes I get down writing this blog.  I feel like all I’m doing is criticizing the crap that passes for commercials, political or otherwise. I really look forward to the days I get to praise a commercial because that’s why I really write this blog to find ads that are praise worthy that can stand as examples of the best of commercials.

A friend sent me this PSA for Sussex safer roads, “Embrace Life.”  I talk a lot about making an emotional argument, that facts aren’t as important as connection, that your visuals should tell a story.  This spot has all those elements.  It’s visually interesting, keeps you guessing at what’s going on, well executed, and emotionally powerful.

The image of the wife and little girl clasping their hands around the dad is striking and moving — it stays with you, and works as a powerful metaphor for what a seatbelt represents.

The real emotion you feel watching helps ground the spot and counters the surreal conceit of the spot.  You don’t dwell on the strangeness of the situation (why is he driving in his living room, that’s not real), you’re able to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise because it’s compelling emotionally and there’s enough velocity to take you through to the end.

And another thing, the spot doesn’t feel preachy.  Often times spots like this can feel holier than thou, trying to make you feel guilty or shamed for your bad behavior. That will almost never work, it’ll just box folks into a corner.  This ad goes another way.  It doesn’t argue facts with facts or stab with guilt, it tells a story with emotions to try and connect to the viewer.  People who don’t wear seat belts will give you a a rational rationale for their behavior, and if you try to talk to them about the merits of their argument, they’ll gladly argue, but you wont change their opinion with facts.

Feelings come first, facts, rationales, reasons come second to explain our feelings — change the feeling, and you don’t need facts, people will seek them out to rationalize their new feeling.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Is affect effective?

December 1, 2009

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted.  Usually that’s because I’m busy and there’s nothing really inspiring me to post.  Well, I’ve been busy between travel for work & Thanksgiving, but I actually have seen a lot of really interesting stuff that I’ve wanted to post about.

We’ll try a post a day for the rest of the week to make up for two weeks of silence.

I thought this ad was very clever.  After watching it, I couldn’t tell you how much Blount took from Big Oil, or exactly what the charges were, but in my mind I remember the oily footprints walking out the door or the oily hand print on the back of the constituent’s shirt.  So this is not only a clever ad, but an effective one.

Look, people like to point to the facts inside the ads, and those can be important, but what’s more important is the overall affect of the ad (btw, affect is one of my favorite words).  Here the facts are like a soundtrack in a movie, they’re background for the clever (there’s that word again) visuals that really drive the message.

Imagine this ad with more standard visuals:

A picture of Cong Bount, CG: XXXX from Big Oil.

A picture of a Oil well (or oil company logos), Blount, Voted against American Clean Energy & Security Act.

Look, I’ve made that ad, like 1000 times, it’s easy, it’s not going to offend a pollster or other sensibility, and it’ll get it’s point across with enough repetition or if it’s a view already moving through the political discourse.  But this ad, with these visuals is something different. I saw this ad once, and not the connection is locked in my mind Rep. Blount = Big Oil.  (Now, there are other factors, like the fact that I’m more inclined towards a pro-environment message and against big oil, but leave that aside for the moment.)

It’s maneuver theory at work (I’ll put this on the list of things to talk more about in the future).  It doesn’t go up against your opponent’s strength, but uses the necessary force to achieve it’s objective and no more.

Creating affect if done correctly is certainly effective.

Best Health Care Ad EVER!

November 15, 2009

At film school they always tried to teach us “show, don’t tell.”

Case and point: This ad.  It does a lovely job of storytelling, using details, the procedure of moving, and mystery — what’s the punchline of the ad going to be, where’s this going.

They don’t try to cram a minute’s worth of message at you, instead they give you 45 seconds of a story, a compelling one at that, then five seconds of message (of course, you could argue the story is part of the message, which is true, but misses the point somewhat).

If I had to quibble it would be with the fact that the message is so tepid after such a big build up.  Yes, “No one should lose everything because the are denied health coverage,” is great, but the second card, “Tell your senators to support consensus health care reform,” is so vague as to be meaningless.  I feel like they had me in the palm of their hand, but I’m not clear what they want from me.  Maybe that’s more than a quibble.  I also might have put those cards up over a blurred scene of the couple interacting in the background.

Still, this ad is the best one I’ve seen on health care, and I think well after the debate is over and a bill is passed (or not), I’ll probably remember it.  It’s smart and emotional without being melodramatic, and it delivers it’s message about losing everything very elegantly, without ever tipping it’s hand too overtly (this is a health care ad, watch now, listen now).


Real people not necessary

August 25, 2009

I got the chance to watch the movie “Up” a few weeks ago. It’s from Pixar animation –some of the best storytellers around.

The first 20 minutes minutes were an amazing example of visual storytelling, only a few lines of dialogue, and the damned thing had me in tears (either that or the theater was a little dusty). It was beautiful and moving.

Did it matter that it was a cartoon? That it wasn’t “real” people? Not one bit because the story is in our minds, we create the associations, we decide on the meaning through story.

Does this story seem any less moving because it’s animated?

Speaking of story & emotion, do you need the intro to this spot or is it just trying to do too much:

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