Posts Tagged ‘volkswagen’

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.

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.

Quick Review: ALZHEIMER “FORTUNATELY”

June 15, 2009

A friend sent me this ad late Friday. In between work and the weekend, I’ve been thinking about it since.  Andrew Sullivan called attention to it on the Daily Dish. He called it, “Heartbreaking. But effective.” My friend agreed.

I’ve watched the piece 5 or 6 times, trying to decide what I think about it. Here’s a quick review.

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

I think Boris would call this ad, “Lyrical.” It was produced by Saatchi & Saatchiin France, so maybe it’s that European feel.  It’s very sparse — only 12 shots total.  Next time you think you need all those shots or fancy graphics to tell a story, watch this ad.  35 seconds of images (there’s about 10 seconds for the end cards) and 12 shots.  This spot tells a story very cleanly and without any spoken words.  It clearly shows instead of telling, a cardinal rule of script writing.

It’s also well-edited; not fancy, not calling attention to itself, but there’s usually a shot that sets up the scene, then a shot that explains what we’re seeing.  Its form adds to the emotional connection.  It gives you time to take in the scenes.

Then there’s the CG (words on the screen or computer graphics) that comes up at the end.  Smart writing and nice use of the end effect to make a point; the CGs blow off like so much dust in the wind, like memory itself fading away.

Function (on a scale A-F): B

Here’s my problem with the ad — is it really effective?  The ad is heartbreaking to be sure, and emotion gets you to care.  Is that all it’s asking?  Yes, I care, now what?  Is it too sparse?  I really wrestled with this grade because I like so many of the elements that went into this ad, and the clean, not didactic message is really appealing.  At the end of the day, I don’t know, so I punted and gave it a B.

That grade would become a C if the ad was intended to drive some further action.  It would become an A if it was only intended to drive awareness.

Editor’s Note: I had some more insight on this ad walking home after posting this review.  I was listening to Robert McKee’s “Story,” which, while annoyingly pompous in tone (both on the page and in audio format),  is also considered a master class in structure and story elements.  It’s primarily for screenwriters, but also really interesting for anyone who wants to understand story structure better.  McKee was talking about different kinds of structures.  Of one, which he call Nonplot, he says, “Although nothing changes within the universe of a Nonplot, we gain a sobering insight and hopefully something changes within us.”  With that in mind, watching the spot again, it seems the very definition of Nonplot.  It’s certainly a more European aesthetic and watching this ad feels more like watching a foreign film than an American one.  Leave it to Robert McKee to explain a French Alzheimer’s ad to me.

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

Yeah, the grade should average out to a B+, but given my ambivalence on the function grade, I decided that the form should rule the day.  Do I feel dirty, promoting form over function?  A little, actually.  But while not innovative, it was exquisitely and elegantly put together.

Is it manipulative? Yes, but isn’t that what ads are? I guess you could call this spitting on the table — it’s shocking, and in some ways an easy target.  Seniors with Alzheimer’s, how could that not pull at the heartstrings.  Too easy? I don’t know.  Much like this Volkswagen ad, when shock value is used effectively, I think it’s fair game. What I don’t like is shock value for shock value’s sake.  I think this ad is thoughtful in its approach like that Volkswagen ad; it isn’t just a gimmick, but rather deliberate and focused.  So, if someone spits on the table knowing the effect it will have, deliberately calculating their spitting (just how far can I go with this metaphor?) then I think that’s different.

In any case, this ad stands as a good counterpoint to all the yelling, fast-cutting, and graphics-heavy ads that are on the air today.

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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